Industry Expert Blog: How the Combination of Connected Gas Detection and Plume Modeling is Changing the Hazardous Materials Response Game

In the United States, 17% of the population lives near a toxic discharge facility, ranging from 6.5% in Hawaii to 37.3% in Wisconsin (Stacker.com). That means 56 million Americans live near a facility that uses or manufactures one of 770 chemicals recognized by the EPA to have adverse health effects.

Releases of hazardous materials can have dramatic and lasting effects on first responders, communities and businesses. Managing these events requires an immediate response, thoughtful strategy and effective teamwork. When lives are at stake, seconds count and having quick access to information is crucial.

If you’ve ever thought about the potential impact a larger incident could have on communities, including schools, churches, office buildings, etc., you’ve probably wondered how best to protect them during and after such an incident. Hazmat emergency responders know how important it is to have the right tools and develop training programs before such an incident. However, many do not realize that two of the most reliable tools, gas detectors and plume modeling software, now work together and provide complementary benefits as first responder tools.

Connected gas detection and Hazmat response

The move to cloud-connected devices has eliminated many of the old problems associated with using conventional gas detectors. For example, Hazmat response operations require quick access to live monitoring of incident conditions to ensure an appropriate response. However, many conventional gas detectors only send a screenshot at set intervals; they do not provide live data.

Connected gas detection devices, like those from Blackline Safety, provide real-time, fully visible gas readings. Online interfaces mean you have immediate access to your data and visibility into incident weather conditions and responder locations with interactive reports that provide valuable insights. Incident reviews have also become more effective as a training tool. Instead of relying solely on field observations in the hotwash, you can review live and archived data directly from the incident site, improving future response techniques and protocols.

Online dashboards, cloud-connected area monitors, and personal handheld devices create a network that gives incident commanders and resource scientists immediate access to critical information across the entire network. For example, managers can now check test and calibration dates, battery levels, and device location from anywhere in the world. They no longer have to search for devices and wait to dock them before they get the information they need.

Devices connected via satellite and/or cellular means you have a redundant connection, never losing sight of the location of your responders and the atmospheric conditions where they are in the event of an emergency. These types of communications also eliminate the pass or fail of mesh networks, inherent Bluetooth limitations, and those that rely on “gateways” as intermediate connection points. Additionally, location tracking allows you to develop effective rescue plans and reduce risk to responders.

Agencies, stakeholders and on-site personnel need accurate data to make informed decisions while responding to an incident. Having online dashboards allows you to share access to live reports and quickly update multiple groups. This means everyone gets the information they need when they need it, reducing bottlenecks in decision-making.

One would assume that connected gas detection devices are complicated to use, difficult to set up and prone to damage. However, Blackline Safety’s connected gas detectors have a user-friendly interface, are automatically connected to the cloud within seconds of switching on and are designed to withstand the harshest environments. With all of these benefits, switching from conventional gas detectors to connected gas detection devices is a no-brainer for first responders.

Plume Modeling and Hazmat Response

If you are not already familiar with them, plume dispersion models are computer tools used to predict the trajectory and concentration of airborne contaminants and toxic gases following a release. Users enter details of actual or possible chemical releases, and the program will calculate potential threat zones in the surrounding area. Emergency responders can then use these forecasts to make informed emergency management decisions, such as whether surrounding communities should shelter in place or should evacuate.

When gas detection and plume modeling combine

On their own, connected gas detection devices and plume modeling are essential tools for any incident response team. However, when combined, they are a game-changer for Hazmat responses. That’s why Blackline Safety has partnered with Vlahi Systems to integrate real-time, geolocated, data from Blackline’s G7 personal and area gas detectors into Vlahi’s web-based, smartphone-based plume modeling software CERES.

VSchemical Eemergency Ranswer EService (CERES) from Vlahi Systems is incident response software that makes plume modeling more accurate and efficient. CERES uses ALOHA hazard modeling developed by the US government and combines it with Google Maps integration, live weather data and sensor-driven plume modeling. Real-time data from gas detectors, weather readings and GPS devices means the CERES algorithm can provide the most accurate predictions possible. This vital data helps Hazmat personnel plan, respond to, and analyze toxic chemical events, fires, and explosions. And if radiation is also a concern, consider the possibilities of integrating the PRDs you already have; there may be a way to get the most out of your existing assets.

With real-time data and plume modeling, you can confidently know if an area is safe or sound the alarm when gas levels have exceeded that safe threshold. In addition, response managers can immediately notice changes in concentrations and changes in weather conditions, enabling the identification of risk areas faster than ever.

How Blackline Safety can help you

When the health and safety of first responders and communities are at stake, the more you know, the better. By combining connected gas detectors like Blackline Safety’s G7 EXO Area Monitor or G7c Gas Detectors with Vlahi’s CERES predictive plume modeling, you have the most accurate information available to make informed decisions with confidence.

Want to learn more about how Blackline Safety can help you find a new edge in hazmat response? Come see us at booth #524 at the International Hazardous Materials Response Teams Conference, June 9-12, 2022, in Baltimore, Maryland. Also, be sure not to miss our “Take Control of Your Response” presentation on June 11 at 4 p.m.

For more information and resources: Visit our Fire and Hazardous Materials page

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