• Stephen Biss

Surge Protector Essential in Breath Room Power Supply

On February 13, 2014, I was conducting evidentiary breath tutorials in the reception area at my office. My 10-4D #duisimulator was plugged into a wall outlet together with IR and other breath testing equipment. From time to time the paddle wheel on the simulator would stop, an alarm would sound, and the simulator would display an error message. The paddle wheel or propeller is the turning device that keeps all of the alcohol standard at a consistent temperature. Each time I employed my usual method for dealing with crashed electronic equipment, power off, power on, restart normally. That may not be very scientific but it seems that if you turn something off and on enough times it will start to function again.

On February 14, 2014, I was continuing my tutorials. I started my 10-4D and 2100 wet bath simulators. Both of them were plugged into the same extension cord, plugged directly into a wall outlet in my reception area. As they warmed up, both of them started experiencing error messages - Err 3 and Err 4. I tried restarting each of them but the error conditions continued.

I thought about my experience with a case involving a police detachment (image attached). In that case the police were experiencing problems with at least two 2100 simulators over the course of a year. They would experience Error messages on each of the simulators, send them out for repair to the Canadian authorized service centre, only to be told there was nothing wrong with them and that they should check the breath room power supply. At that particular location the police had positioned both the 8000C and the simulator into very close proximity to the wall outlet and they were not using a surge protector (note the image).

During the Cambridge OPP trial, an expert from the Centre of Forensic Sciences testified that, although it is not published in the 8000C Training Aid, it is recommended that breath technicians ensure that 8000Cs and accessory equipment (including simulator) be plugged into surge protectors. He testified that 8000cs have built in surge protectors but simulators do not:

"I noted that the Simulator had been plugged directly into the – into the main outlet and Guth Simulators are well known to be highly susceptible to voltage spikes and it has always been the Centre of Forensic Sciences’ advice that Simulators should not be plugged directly into the wall but should be plugged into a surge protector. So that might also be the likely cause of that error message."

I applied this information in my reception area yesterday and plugged all of my simulators, including the 2100,10-4D, and my old 34C, all using the same extension cord, into a surge protector, and then into the wall outlet. I experienced no further problems over the course of my tutorial.

It should be noted that here in Mississauga the outside weather has been very cold this winter and that a number of tenants in adjoining offices have been using portable electic heaters to supplement the building's heating system. There may be power supply problems in the building.

I respectfully suggest that it is operator error for qualified technicians, police detachments, and police services in Ontario to not use surge protectors on the power supply systems for their 8000Cs and simulators. It is curious that the recommendation for surge protectors is not published in the 2009 or 2011 Training Aids. That omission should be corrected.


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