Hangin' with Harrington

Security and life safety are synonymous, and often spring to mind visions of high tech cameras, access cards, and a myriad of other technologically advanced products that help wage the war on security threats. While all these high-tech offerings are critical, there is still a need for basic life safety.

Products as pass' as smoke and fire detectors are anything but pass'. Protecting homes and families, as well as occupants from schools to office buildings, never goes out of style. Charity begins at home, they say, so why is it that thousands of people continue to die in theirs needlessly as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning? It is the number 1 cause of accidental deaths or poisoning in the U.S. in the home.

Ignorance, it seems, even in a world of biometrics and intelligent technologies still manages to prevail when a staggering 25,000 lives are lost each year from this silent killer. This odorless, tasteless gas is merciless, but, with ECS' UltraGuard CO Safety System, this vicious killer can be put to death. What this product can do is shut down carbon monoxide at its source. THIS IS HUGE. Many people are misled into believing their safety is ensured by simply putting in a CO detector. What they don't often realize is that time is of the essence. It takes mere minutes for this poisonous gas to wreak its havoc.

Geoffrey Winters, President and CEO of UltraGuard, explains, "More than 95% of CO instances are related to the furnace. If you have a system that shuts it down in a nano- second, you've cut down almost all the causes of CO." Conversely, without an automatic shutdown, you are playing beat the clock. As long as a furnace is pumping and emitting carbon monoxide, it can claim a life in as little as 15 minutes, and cause brain damage in even fewer.

While a CO detector is a step in the right direction, many people sleep right through the alarm and lose precious escape time. But, according to Winters, "When you shut down the furnace, and the water heater along with it, as the UltraGuard system does, you shut down 95% of the causes of carbon monoxide exposure. The UltraGuard system is UL approved to shut down the furnace. The system also conveys where the CO exposure is occurring.

The UltraGuard system is a standalone system (it can also send info to any monitoring panel). You can have either a hardwired CO smoke or a wireless smoke and it will be able to communicate with the ECS UltraGuard monitor and shut down the furnace.

In addition to protecting homes, this system is also a lifesaver in public venues, particularly schools and dormitories, as well as hotels, sports arenas, churches, etc. Some states have passed laws requiring new buildings to be equipped with CO detectors, but there's still much education that needs to be done.

Winters comments, "What happens is a knee jerk reaction," he explains. "Facility managers run out and buy detectors, but they don't shut down the source." Winters points out that college dormitories are especially vulnerable. Incidents of CO exposure have claimed the lives of students, and, he argues, simply slapping CO detectors up in the dorms is not enough.

Sometimes, he adds, students, for whatever reason, unplug them. "If you are going to be intelligent enough to pass a CO law, make it cover all your public venues," he asserts.

Geoffrey Winters is passionate about this subject. After he and his family had a near fatal brush with CO in their home (caused by a hairline fracture in the ventilation system from the basement that caused CO to spew into the 2nd floor), he acquired ECS and the patent they had been using for an engine monitor. It had been used in vehicles to monitor anything potentially catastrophic, such as dangerously low fluids, that could destroy the engine or transmission. It was capable of alerting drivers of the problem and warning them to shut down the engine.

Winters saw that the technology existed for that application and wondered if detectors could be developed that would communicate to furnaces. He sought the Research & Development on it, and now this unprecedented, life-saving technology is available. He's donated many of the systems to elementary schools and colleges, in an attempt to protect life and educate facilities managers on the importance of this technology.

Winters urges installing dealers to be proactive and educate customers on the critical importance of shutting down CO at its source, not merely installing detectors. "CO tragedies happen everywhere," he states. "No one is left out. One in five homes over the next 5 years will experience a CO problem." He advises installing dealers to work with customers. "Put in hardwired detectors, and, when you are about to finish, say 'I'd be so remiss if I didn't tell you that, for a bit more money, you can have the source of CO automatically shut down.'" (The systems sell for between $330 to $390 through various industry distributors.)

Carbon Monoxide Tips to Pass on to Customers
Warning Signs

  • Because carbon monoxide results from improper burning or venting, be alert to signs indicating a problem.
  • They include:
  • Decreasing hot-water supply.
  • The pilot light of a furnace or other gas-fired equipment keeps going out.
  • The pilot light and burner flames of a gas furnace or other gas-fired equipment are mostly yellow, rather than clear blue. (Please note that some natural gas fireplaces are designed to have yellow flames.)
  • Soot build-up around appliance vents.
  • Stale or stuffy air.
  • Unfamiliar or burning odor.
  • A sharp, penetrating odor or the smell of natural gas when your appliance is turned on.
  • Increased condensation inside windows.
  • Plant leaves yellowing.
  • An appliance that keeps shutting off. Many appliances have safety devices installed that prevent dangerous operation of the unit. An appliance which constantly shuts off may be an indication that the appliance is not safe. Call a service technician to test the appliance before you try to operate it again.

Preventing CO Poisoning

  • Have your appliance serviced regularly/ never attempt to adapt or service it yourself.
  • Provide adequate ventilation (with proper air flow, CO cannot build up).
  • Never leave a car running in the garage.
  • Be aware of signs of CO presence as described above.
  • Install a carbon monoxide detector with an audible warning.

Recognize the reality that alarming alone is simply not enough. And, help save lives. For more information, visit www.ecsultraguard.com.