Evaluating the Eagle 2 monitor
Vol 25 Fall
In the last issue of Industrial Fire World I commented on the introduction of the Eagle 2 gas monitoring instrument by RKI Instruments, Inc. and promised a review of this new addition to the company’s line. This is not intended to be a competitive evaluation wherein a number of instruments are set up and run through a series of tests to determine which is the best one of the lot; a matter of some subjectivity and opinion anyway. It is rather an attempt to assess the features found on this instrument in the light of practical value and functionality as well as the ability of the equipment and its manufacturer to actually live up to the advertised claims and to asses the long range durability and dependability of the device. If you are in the market for equipment such as this, “you pays your money and takes your choice” and if you choose this one, here is what you can expect.
The initial shipment consists of the Eagle 2 instrument, complete with batteries, a shoulder strap, connector hose and a probe/filter unit. A convenient case with compartments for all of these parts is available as an accessory.
The instrument is accompanied by an instruction manual that is actually useful and can be read and understood by the average responder. It is even indexed so that one can find what he/she is looking for. The book is printed in English and English only. This is not an expression of elitist disdain but the recognition of reality. All too often instruction manuals are written on such an advanced technical level that if one could read and understand the manual, he/she wouldn’t need it. Then too, many of these instruction manuals are printed on thin paper with small type in three or four different languages. Try to find something in one of these on a dark night with the rain falling and the wind blowing.
Cursory examination of the instrument reveals a number of points that are noteworthy. In the first place, this instrument is made right here in the U.S.A. This may not seem important at first glance but stop and think; you are going to invest a good number of hard earned shekels in this purchase and you don’t want something that may become obsolete or orphaned at the whim of world politics. Mr. Ken Paskow of RKI states in personal correspondence that the company intends to support and market this instrument for at least ten years and support it with parts, technical service etc. for an additional twenty years thereafter. It would appear that these fellows are sincere in this assertion; the Eagle (predecessor of the Eagle 2) has been in production for sixteen years and, according to Mr. Paskow, the company still sells and supports it and plans to do so indefinitely. You may get similar promises from foreign manufacturers but their value may be problematical.
The instrument case is extremely robust being made of a high impact re-enforced plastic which is radio frequency (RF) resistant. The robust handle is solid without voids which could entrap contaminates. In addition the handle is cast separately from the rest of the case and thus is removable and can be replaced in the field should it become damaged.
The findings are well made and carry a good finish; the nickel plating is smooth and no flaws that could initiate corrosion are noted.
The instrument is certified to be intrinsically safe with the electronic compartment hermetically sealed by an elastomeric gasket. The battery compartment is separate from the electronic compartment and sealed with its own elastomeric gasket. This means that the batteries can be changed without opening the electronic compartment and exposing the electronic components to a potentially corrosive atmosphere. It also isolates the electronic components from the batteries in the event that a “C” cell should leak.
It was noted that the exhaust is located just below the intake fitting. This brings up the possibility that gasses which have previously been analyzed and are being exhausted from the instrument could be sucked into the intake port and recycled. Experience teaches that when an instrument such as this is being used to sample the atmosphere in a room or other enclosed space or perhaps in the area surrounding an incident it is very convenient to use the device without any attachment to the exhaust or the intake ports. The short path through which the sample stream is required to pass will contribute to a very short “response time”, the interval between the time the intake of the instrument contacts the analyte and the display of the response to the operator. Since this potential problem cannot be corrected, at least on units already in the field, it is suggested that the included probe/filter be connected to the inlet port to prevent mixing of exhaust and sample intake at all times. The probe/filter unit works nicely here and the filter helps to prevent the aspiration of debris into the instrument; all we want it to do is to separate the exhaust from the intake to eliminate any possibility of cross contamination. To some this may seem like joisting with windmills but when we get to the litigation phase of an incident, and we will, sooner or later, a slick lawyer can, and will, have a field day with this. The addition of the 5’ length of tubing or the probe/filter will stop any inquiry along these lines; “yes sir, I am aware that cross contamination could occur and that is why the 5’ length of tubing (or the filter/probe unit) was connected to the intake port, to make sure that the exhaust gas was not recycled by being sucked into the instrument”.
The Eagle 2 is powered by four “C” size dry cells. These are housed in the battery box and can be changed without opening the electronic chamber. The use of “Duracell PC 1400, Duracell MN 1400 Energizer E93or EN93 is highly recommended. Use of other types of cells will void the CSA classification and may also void the warranty.
The “C” cells can also be replaced with four “C” size rechargeable Ni-MH Cells available from RKI (part Number 49-1330RK). These cells can be recharged by means of a charger (available as an accessory) connected to the charging jack on the rear of the battery box. A rack available from RKI can be installed in a response vehicle to keep the instrument charged and ready for use at all times.
The display on the Eagle 2 is provided by a liquid crystal screen which is located forward of the handle. The four operating switches and the two alarm lights are also located on this panel. When this instrument was taken out into bright sunlight some degradation of the text was noticeable. This is simply the “nature of the beast” when dealing with liquid crystal displays. Some users might find the addition of some sort of sun shade to be a helpful addition to the instrument.
Upon gaining access to the electronic compartment by means of the three screws which secure the base to the instrument one finds that the main circuit board is located in a vertical position on the side of the compartment instead of in the bottom of the box under the pumps and sensors or above them. This location helps to reduce the possibility of contamination of the board in the event of leakage due to a failure of some component of the sampling system or the advent of condensate due to rapid changes in humidity and/or temperature. This board can be easily replaced if such action becomes necessary simply by disconnecting the plugs and pulling it upward. The plugs used in the instrument are robust and large enough to be grasped with the gloved fingers when sitting on a truck tailgate on a cold, dark night.
Sensors are changed or replaced in the same manner, without the need for specialized tools; the entire compartment having been designed to afford maximum access to all components and these being of the plug-in type.
In the beginning I stated that this evaluation of the Eagle 2 would be different; it would be done from the standpoint of the responder who actually has to use the instrument and the things that were deemed most noteworthy may well have not been the features that a salesman would demonstrate.
Any instrument needs to have its calibration checked from time to time and the Eagle 2 is no exception. What is noteworthy however is the wide selection of calibration standards. These standards are actual gasses as opposed to a chemical surrogate. This means that a calibration gas mixture that is intended to be used for H2S actually contains H2S and not something that is used as a standard in place of the designated analyte with a calculated value.
All RKI calibration gasses are directly traceable to NBS (National Bureau of Standards) primary standards. The calibration protocols are fairly simple, using either a gas bag or a demand regulator and the instruction manual is very straight forward as to the specific procedure to be followed for the various gasses and detectors. This is another one of those small details that may go unnoticed; unnoticed, that is, until one is facing a deposition of is on the witness stand. If one can state categorically “yes sir, I verified the calibration of the instrument before entering the contaminated area and again when I exited the site and the calibration remained within normal operating limits during that time” and “yes sir, I used actual gas mixtures for calibration; these were supplied by the manufacturer of my test equipment and all of them are traceable to NBS primary standards” then you will have eliminated a lot of discomfort and the need to try to explain Chemistry to a lawyer.
In actual use, the Eagle 2 appears to be exceptionally stable so far as calibrations are concerned. When the instrument is turned on and exposed to samples of oxygen and methane (natural gas) and then left on the desk overnight the reading for the value for the concentration of these two gasses is substantially unchanged. This procedure was tried and then extended to three days again with no significant change in the obtained reading. While other defined gasses were not available for testing purposes there is no reason to assume that the obtained readings would be any different.
The Eagle 2 comes equipped with an infrared data logging port located on the left front of the bottom case. Data is transmitted in standard IrDA protocol. To utilize this capability one will need a computer with an infrared port or a USB/IrDA cable and running Windows 2000, XP, or Vista. An RKI Eagle 2 Data Logger Management Program is available from the instrument manufacturer. Note that this feature only works when the Eagle2 is operating in the IrDA Connect mode. Anyone who has ever tried to write down data while wearing a fully encapsulated suit and three or four thicknesses of gloves or to communicate such data over a radio link will immediately appreciate the value of this capability. Since the data is ultimately logged in standard computer format (Xcel) it can be sent over the internet to any other computer at any remote location in real time.
The logged data is obtained by the Eagle 2, passed to a computer by an electronic (infrared) link and thence to a secure file all without the benefit of human intervention. When the inevitable litigation comes around this goes a long way toward eliminating arguments and accusations of human error or inaccuracy.
In conclusion let it be said that the RKI Eagle 2 is a quality instrument which will deliver what its manufacturers claim. It is made in the USA to American standards. Because there are no uncertainties due to conditions in foreign countries the promise of long term support for the instrument can be expected to be honored. This is no “low end” instrument and neither is it a “knock-off”; it isn’t cheap but once procured it can be expected to give reliable service until most of us have retired.