Tuesday, September 20, 2011

ECBC's Standards Development Support Team drafts standardizations for chemical detectors with industry professionals, government agencies

In an effort to enhance First Responder capabilities and establish a program which provides certified equipment to fire and law enforcement, Edgewood Chemical Biological Center's Standards Development Team (SDT) is collaborating with government agencies and industry professionals to draft performance specifications and test methods for chemical detection equipment.
“Emergency First Responders must arrive prepared to a scene and ready to take on any scenario using the necessary instruments. Most responders have several different types of chemical detectors and monitors for use in various response scenarios. Current chemical detectors sold on the market are not independently certified outside of vendors’ claims, ” said SDT Branch Chief Greg Mrozinski.

The goal is to have certified equipment in the hands of the First Responders who are using U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grant money to purchase the items, similar to what currently exists with respirators and protective suits. ECBC’s SDT works under an interagency agreement with the DHS Science and Technology Directorate to establish certification standards for the equipment that First Responders use.

Two years ago, SDT, DHS Science and Technology Directorate, DHS Office of Health Affairs and other groups came together to form the Detection Technology Evaluation and Reporting (DeTER) Program. The DeTER Program will establish a certifying agency and the process by which commercial detectors can be certified.
On August 10, DHS, in conjunction with ASTM International, held a meeting to establish a task group within ASTM Committee E54 on Homeland Security Applications to complete the drafting of two performance standards for chemical vapor detectors. This allows DHS to gain input from government and industry professionals in the final drafting of these standards.
The work items for the two proposed new standards are ASTM WK33681, Specification for Standard for Handheld Chemical Vapor Point Detectors, and ASTM WK33684, Specification for Standard for Stationary Monitoring Chemical Vapor Point Detector. The proposed standards are being developed by Subcommittee E54.01 on chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high-yield explosive (CBRNE) Sensors and Detectors.
ASTM International is a globally recognized leader in the development and delivery of international voluntary consensus standards. Today, some 12,000 ASTM standards are used around the world to improve product quality, enhance safety, facilitate market access and trade and build consumer confidence.
ASTM’s leadership in international standards development is driven by the contributions of its members: more than 30,000 of the world’s top technical experts and business professionals representing 135 countries. ECBC professionals, including SDT, make up a handful of these experts.
“Respiratory and personal protective equipment is already CBRN certified by the National Fire Protection Association and through National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. However many other types of equipment, like handheld chemical detectors, monitors and decontamination systems/shelters, have no standards for certification, which makes the purchasing difficult for First Responders since DHS wants the equipment to be certified,” Mrozinski said.
A certification program for chemical detectors will increase the confidence of First Responders buying that equipment. Additionally, this helps DHS meet its goal of implementing their grant programs to the First Responder community.
“In the normal certification process, manufacturers send their item to an independent, third party testing lab to have it evaluated against established performance requirements using accredited methods,” said Detection Team Lead Mary Beth Busch. “Either the device meets the standards or it doesn’t. However, for chemical and radiation detectors, there is a broader spectrum of operational requirements that a First Responder must contend with.”
Under the DeTER Program and using the ASTM standards, detectors will be tested against the same basic requirements, in addition to specific operational criteria. As Mrozinski noted, a First Responder in Alaska may need a detector that is more environmentally rugged than a First Responder in Maryland. The DeTER Program will allow varying levels of certification.  ASTM recognized the baseline requirements for the detectors, which were originally developed in 2007 by Busch. The standard – E2411- 07, Standard Specification for Chemical Warfare Vapor Detector, ASTM Committee E54 on Homeland Security Applications, subcommittee E54.01 on CBRNE Sensors and Detectors – was based roughly on existing Department of Defense chemical detection specifications. Other ASTM standards that SDT created include three published standards for chemical personnel decontamination systems - E2542-08 Standard Specification for Portable Water Heaters Used at Personnel Decontamination Stations, E2543 – 08, Standard Specification for Portable Air Heaters Used at Personnel Decontamination Stations and Shelters, E2739 – 10, Standard Specification for Personnel Decontamination System to be Used During a Chemical Event and two work items for handheld and fixed site Toxic Industrial Chemical vapor detectors .
The meeting on August 10 was just a small part of a longer process that could take up to a year. “The next steps following the meeting would be to develop non-chemical testing methods for criteria such as size and weight, display functions and communications and establishing accredited testing labs. Another publication needed would be a guide for the First Responders to assist them in deciding which equipment they need,” Mrozinski said.

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