Sentry IT Fire and Gas Detection Solutions
Facilities ranging from small CNG filling stations to fleet maintenance buildings, wastewater lift stations to wastewater plants, compressors, pipelines, refineries and even data rooms and cell tower huts present a common set of risks of hazard gas. Combustible gases such as natural gas (Methane) or Hydrogen represent a risk for facilities due to fire or explosion. Toxic gases including Carbon Monoxide, Hydrogen Sulfide, Chlorine and many others represent a risk to personnel, while inert gases such as Nitrogen can cause Oxygen displacement leading to asphyxiation. Facility managers must identify hazardous gas risks, mitigate the possible causes and design continuous monitoring systems to warn of dangerous conditions. Many facilities also need to protect themselves from flame hazards.
Protection from gas hazards is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Systems must be designed to provide the appropriate level of protection and response commensurate with the risk level and the resources available to install and manage the system. Sierra Monitor’s Sentry IT fire and gas detection solution includes standalone sensor modules that can be integrated into the user’s safety and control system, controller based systems with extremely flexible logic for customized response, and enterprise wide systems that incorporate IoT functions such as network connectivity, web-server graphics capabilities, and cloud data analytics.
Selecting the Right Partner
As a top-tier supplier with 35 years of experience in a highly regulated industry, Sierra Monitor’s products carry numerous third party approvals including Underwriters Labs, Factory Mutual, and Safety Integrity Level ratings; and comply with most relevant international standards. Sierra Monitor has deep technical experience and the resources to advise, develop and integrate the correct facility safety solution. While selecting a fire and gas detection solution from a short list of top-tier suppliers, facilities safety managers should ask the following questions to compare the Return on Investment (ROI) between the alternatives:
- How long will it take to install the solution at my facility? Facilities are complex constructions, and installing and wiring gas and flame sensor modules across the facility can be time consuming and therefore expensive. Sierra Monitor offers a range of wiring connectivity options on each sensor module, thereby simplifying and speeding up the installation process. The installer can choose the option that is right for a particular construction type or zone. The options include traditional analog 4-20 mA connectivity and various digital wiring options that can be configured in daisy chain, hub, or star topologies as required, minimizing wiring complexity.
- How long will it take to commission the entire system? Sierra Monitor’s Sentry IT solution includes a unique AutoDiscovery capability that enables the controller to automatically discover all the sensor modules connected to the controller, thereby saving time and preventing errors from manual commissioning. A very simple programmable logic environment enables the facility manager to quickly implement closed loop detection and response workflow that is appropriate for their facility. A “one-button” test feature rapidly tests the logic and health of all the actuator devices like lights, horns and strobes that participate in the response workflow. A “one-step” upgrade capability allows the USB port to be used to rapidly update the operating system, firmware, application logic, and user programs; making it equally easy to re-commission a system.
- Over the life of the solution, how much time will be spent calibrating and recalibrating the sensor modules? Sensor modules are often located in hard-to-reach places. Accessing and calibrating each sensor module individually is time consuming and requires multiple people. Sierra Monitor’s unique GlobalCal™ technology enables a single-person, non-intrusive, all-at-once based approach to calibrating all sensor modules at one time from the controller. There is no need for personnel to go the each sensor module to calibrate it. Another factor that adds to the cost associated with calibration is the frequency of re-calibration. Many of Sierra Monitor’s modules are approved by the various agencies for recalibration every six months versus the more standard three month re-calibration cycle required by most other vendors. The longer re-calibration cycles are enabled by Sierra Monitor’s use of advanced Digital Signal Processing (DSP) based filtering algorithms. The combination of GlobalCal and less frequent re-calibration results in labor cost savings of up to 75% for Sierra Monitor’s customers.
- How can ongoing maintenance and replacement costs be lowered? Predictive maintenance and replacement or re-calibration of sensor modules is superior compared to reactive maintenance or schedule-based maintenance. With Sierra Monitor’s SenseSafe™ technology, the controllers use raw voltage information from the sensor modules to assess drift, along with statistical process control algorithms to determine when re-calibration would be required for a particular sensor, or when a module might require replacement. The facilities safety manager can use this information to potentially further extend the re-calibration interval, or use this information to make a more informed decision on when to replace individual sensor modules.
- Does the solution support advanced analytics that could proactively highlight a safety issue well before it becomes critical? The Sentry IT controllers have a very large amount of memory to log alarm and events. By defining different alarm levels, large amounts of time series data can be collected at the individual sensor module or zone level, and that data can be analyzed to identify low-level safety anomalies that can be addressed proactively.
- How long will it take to integrate the system with an existing building management system or Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) or to the cloud for remote monitoring and analytics? The Sentry IT solution from Sierra Monitor incorporates a FieldServer protocol gateway, the industry’s leading multi-protocol gateway product. The FieldServer protocol gateway makes it very easy for the installer or integrator to complete the integration step in minutes or hours rather than days or weeks. From Navy ships to Data Centers and from Pipelines to CNG facilities Sierra Monitor’s fire and gas detection solutions are the preferred choice for the diligent and ROI-oriented facility management professional.
Early in the last century, gas detection solutions were limited mostly to simple alarms indicating a hazardous condition. A canary in a bird cage — origin of the famous “canary in the coal mine” phrase — was once the state of the art for gas alarms. Safety and performance standards had not yet been developed, and there was a real need for approvals and certifications for life safety devices.
The formation of OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) in 1971 signaled the beginning of serious approvals and standards in the United States. Agencies such as American National Standards Institute (ANSI), International Society of Automation (ISA), and National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) create the standards, and OSHA oversees the approved National Recognized Testing Laboratories (NRTLs) that test to those standards.
Gas and fire detection is a serious business, and it is imperative that detectors have the proper approvals and certifications to ensure that they will operate as expected.
When selecting a fire and gas solution among a list of top-tier suppliers, facility safety managers should ask the following questions about approvals and certifications:
- What is the importance of approvals and certifications?
Third-party validation assures that the products meet the regulatory needs to satisfy the local authority having jurisdiction (LAHJ). The LAHJ will approve proper installation based upon compliance to current codes and regulations.
Facility management is responsible for maintaining a safe work environment and is accountable for any accidents that may occur. Installing approved and certified safety systems ensures compliance and minimizes the risk of employees being exposed to a hazardous event.
- What are the differences in approvals and certifications?
The different types of approvals and certifications include:
- Quality certifications, such as ISO 9001, assure that approved manufacturers follow published procedures and are in conformance with the International Quality System Standard.
- Safety-related certifications, such as Safety Integrity Level (SIL) and hazardous location electrical approvals (HAZLOC), allow companies to properly select the equipment that meets the requirements of their installation.
- Performance-related certifications assure that the instruments have been fully tested and approved by an independent third-party agency to comply with the criteria established by the standards agencies.
An important thing to note is that each NRTL is chartered to perform only a specific set of test protocols. Not all NRTLs are qualified to test to all published standards. Each NRTL must establish what testing it is qualified to perform and will be regularly audited for compliance to those test standards. If the NRTL is qualified to test for an approval, it is also authorized to issue the certificate assuring compliance with that approval.
- Which approved and certified products are right for my application?
Approvals and certifications vary greatly, depending on the application needs. Each industry can have unique requirements, dictated by the LAHJ, to satisfy current regulations. Specifying engineers must select equipment that is compliant with the codes and regulations. By selecting certified equipment from a vendor that has been NRTL approved, the specifying engineer can be assured that his/her design will meet those regulations, provide a safe work environment, and reduce risk.
Sierra Monitor has made a considerable investment in safety and performance approvals, such as UL 2075, UL 2017, CSA, FM, ATEX, ABS, IECEx, and SIL. These approvals require regular audits by the NRTLs to qualify ongoing compliance with the standards. Sierra Monitor’s Sentry IT gas and flame detection products meet and, in many cases, exceed these approval requirements.
Many gas detection manufacturers use commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) explosion-proof enclosures made by other vendors. These enclosures are typically certified by that manufacturer to meet a certain hazardous area classification, but this enclosure approval applies only when it is being used as an empty junction box. The moment another manufacturer inserts an instrument inside that enclosure, the enclosure must be tested and re-certified with the applicable instrument installed. Specifying engineers must check carefully: The identification legend plate on the enclosure does not necessarily apply to what is put inside.
- What is the value of having approved and certified products?
Approval and certification value can be perceived in different ways, some more tangible than others. Obviously, selling price needs to be considered, but it is not the only way to judge value. Other areas of approval and certification value to be considered include:
- Reduced total cost of ownership (TCO) over the life of the equipment
- Less-frequent calibrations due to better performance
- Situations in which approvals are mandated and not optional
- Reduction of risk and potential liability by having third-party approvals
- Possible reduction in insurance and underwriting costs
- Confidence of reliable and safe operation
- The potential costs involved in ignoring approved and certified life safety systems
The real question is: Can you afford to ignore approvals?
Sierra Monitor’s Sentry IT fire and gas solutions carry a variety of national, international, and industry-specific approvals and certifications. Sentry IT fire and gas solutions undergo rigorous NRTL validation tests to ensure that they are in compliance with the relevant standards for each particular technology. Validation testing is performed by credible, competent, independent third-party laboratories that have met all of the requirements dictated by OSHA.
Luckily, the days of canaries in cages as gas detectors are long past. Still, it is important to take a little bit of extra time to make sure that the gas and fire detection equipment installed will perform as needed, when it really counts.