Aftershocks: How A Little Device Protects Lives After the Hawaii Volcano Eruption

Following the lava flows – toxic fumes create an invisible danger

You’ve seen the dramatic reports from Hawaii: More than 200 earthquakes have rocked the landscape of Hawaii’s Big Island, where dozens of new fissures have opened in the earth, and magma flowing at 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit has engulfed almost 400 homes from the Kilauea volcano eruption.

As frightening as images of flowing lava may be, a greater danger to health and safety are volcanic gases, which can include significant amounts of deadly sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide and hydrogen sulfide, per the United States Geological Association.

MultiRAEMany first responders on the Big Island rely on gas detection technology to monitor air quality and assist with spot sampling of gas levels to help make determinations on issuing warnings or evacuations.

“Levels of sulfur dioxide near the lava flows have been consistently off the charts, at greater than 60 parts per million, very dangerous levels for anyone who might breathe the fumes,” said Lonnie Toby, a manager of Gas Detection for Honeywell and a liaison to first responder teams on the Big Island. Exposure to the gas at that level can cause burning of the nose and throat, breathing difficulties or severe airway obstructions, and at high levels (100 parts per million or greater), exposure can be life-threatening, reports the USGS.

The real-time gas concentration readings, two-way communications and rapid deployment advantages of the MultiRAE wireless detector and AreaRAE Pro multi-threat transportable monitor help first responders closely monitor the changing conditions and record gas concentration levels almost instantaneously, which are especially valuable when every minute counts in a continuously changing scenario.

Here’s how this technology is being used as reported by NBC.