Thinking outside of the [alarm] box - Chlorine gas detection - case study

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When branding experts sit down to decide what attributes they want to associate with a company, it’s a cliché that flexibility is regarded as a must-have. This is particularly true for the fire and gas detection sector; where a project often has to be completed without interfering with a rigid customer schedule. However, flexibility has never come further to the fore than when Oxford based children’s and young adults’ hospice houses Helen & Douglas House addressed chlorine gas detection in its Jacuzzi suites. Here, Mike Fikuart of gas and fire protection specialist Industrial Design outlines the challenges his company overcame to help protect the children and young adults at Helen & Douglas House from harmful gas emissions. 

Chlorine gas protectionOpened in November 1982, by Sister Frances Dominica, Helen House was the world's first children's hospice.  The charity grew out of the need for respite care and support for children with life-shortening conditions. It was set up to help families cope with their situation by providing occasional respite care. The hospice was modeled on a home environment and everything from the surroundings to the staff’s approach is tailored to the children’s individual needs.

Douglas House, the world's first hospice specifically for young adults aged 16-35, opened  in February 2004. It provides a young person with the time to do the things they enjoy with the support of the nursing and care teams.

The two hospices offer specialist symptom and pain management, medically-supported short breaks and end-of-life care, as well as counseling and practical support for the whole family.

Part of the care Helen & Douglas house’s young visitors are provided with includes physiotherapy and water relaxation treatments. For this reason, there are two Jacuzzi rooms on the premises, with one located in each building. As part of a risk assessment of the facilities, Deric Miles, the head of estates at the hospices, identified the need for additional gas protection in the two rooms.The automated dosing system for maintaining the PH levels in the two therapy Jacuzzis uses two types of chemicals: sodium hypochlorite and sodium hydrogen sulphate. When they come into contact, the two substances release chlorine gas, which is toxic and highly irritant for the respiratory system. Additionally, chlorine gas is a strong oxidizer, which may react with flammable materials.

Chlorine gas protection for charitiesRecognising the harmful potential of the substance, Miles decided to have an early warning gas detection system fitted.  He enlisted Oxford based Industrial Design to come up with a system suitable for the two Jacuzzis. The company produced a design incorporating Crowcon gas detectors, a Crowcon Gasmaster control panel and alarm system into a custom made application to suit the hospice’s needs.

Crowcon Detection Instruments manufactures a range of portable and fixed gas detection products. Mike Curtis, fixed systems area-sales manager at the company describes the relationship with Industrial Design; “As a company, Industrial Design is very easy to work with and very approachable. As well as commercial applications like Helen & Douglas House, they do a lot of work in the oil and gas industry and I've even spoken to the MD when he's been sat on a sand dune in a dessert. For me this illustrates the flexibility of the company. We speak the same language."

Due to the fact that because of their conditions many of the hospice’s  young visitors are sensitive to noise, Industrial Design had to be very adaptable in terms of when they completed their initial risk assessment. 

Chlorine gas protection using KrowkonThis sensitivity to noise also led to an interesting re-design later in the project. The initial version of the application used traditional audible alarms as well as visual beacons. This was agreed on by both parties but after the first installation, Miles observed that it would have been better to have a primary visual alarm, followed by an audible alarm later. 

“We are genuinely grateful that Industrial Design could change the project mid-way through to meet our needs,” recalled Miles. “The hardware they installed initially had to be re-assessed so that the beacon would show before the siren rings. Moreover, they did it at no extra charge, which was a pleasant surprise.

“What we needed was more than just the fitting of a new piece of equipment. The stay our guests have with us gives them and their carers the chance to have a break from the routine. The young people here feel very much at home and many of them are active through the night. This is why the facilities have to remain open 24/7, and outside disruptions must be kept to a minimum.”

Chlorine gas protection - Mike Fikuart“Industrial Design took this into account when commissioning the application. The visual indicator helps keep the facilities quiet and minimises distress and panic otherwise induced by penetrating and sharp sounds.”

“Industrial Design should be commended for the level of customer service they offer. Nothing was too much trouble for them and they kindly agreed to complete to project in stages, as and when it was convenient for the guests and staff. We would definitely work with them again,” concluded Miles. 

The installation of the system was conducted by Helen &Douglas House’s preferred contractor, SES Electrical, based in Oxford. “The team at SES proved to be not only very knowledgeable, but also very understanding of the delicate situation we have here,” explained Miles. “If a contractor is not flexible enough, then we’d rather go somewhere else. We won’t risk exposing our Guests to stress caused by noise and strangers. Everything has to be done as discreetly as possible,” he concluded. 

Chlorine gas protection in Oxford“The project posed a series of challenges we rarely encounter,” explained James Ward, Technical Director at Industrial Design. “Nevertheless, finding the best solution to suit every client’s needs is the key to completing a successful application. The only way to do that is to remain receptive and listen to what the end user wants and that’s what we did here.

“When faced with a delicate situation, one must remain flexible and adaptable. Working for this unique children’s charity has been great experience for Industrial Design, and we are really pleased with the results,” finished Ward. 

While flexibility is such a commonly touted unique selling point it has become something of a cliché, it seems that there are multiple levels of flexibility. There is the level that branding experts talk about and there is a deeper level, the value of which Industrial Design proved at Helen & Douglas House. 


If you want to find our more about chlorine gas protection, contact Mike Fikuart on +44 (0) 870 128 3835.