Medical Gas Master Alarms – Problems and Solutions

Medical gas master alarms are among the most crucial pieces of equipment in a healthcare facility.  They monitor life saving gases such as oxygen, nitrous oxide, medical air, etc.  The Joint Commission and other regulatory agencies have moved the master alarm system for medical gases to the top of their list when addressing areas of concern.  In other words, if you have a problem with your medical gas master alarms, you need to fix it quickly.  Problems or deficiencies with these alarms present a distinct hazard to patient safety and must be dealt with.

The issue within most facilities is that the alarm systems, or at least the wiring is very old.  So while other portions of the system have been upgraded, the master alarms are still operating on an antiquated copper wire system that may not meet the current specifications for the newer alarm panels.  The other issue is that hospital ceilings are full, very full, with little room to run additional conduit and wire, making the addition of alarm panels in different locations costly and time consuming.

There is another way…ethernet.  Your hospital has it, every hospital has it, most houses even have it!  Ethernet is a scalable technology that is likely kept up to date by your IT department.  At EMGS, we have the expertise to work with your IT department and utilize your existing infrastructure to provide you with a master alarm anywhere you have a computer with an intranet connection to your facility’s network.  This is all accomplished via the Amico AIMS Ethernet solution.

EMGS recently completed this project at Houston Medical Center in Warner Robins, Ga.  They had a need for a master alarm in their engineering annex building, but running new wire all the way to that building was going to be difficult due to the crowded ceilings and having to traverse buildings.  We implemented the Amico AIMS Ethernet solution, and now they have a touchscreen panel (pictured to the right) that shows them in real time the status of all of their master alarms for the facility.  They also get an e-mail notification any time an alarm goes off, thereby creating a log of alarms and notifying the appropriate staff.

If you have medical gas master alarm issues, take heart, they aren’t as bad as they seem.  They can be resolved and it can be done with less of a headache than you think.  Give us a call and we will work with you to create a solution that is perfect for your facility.

Level 3 Medical Gas (Oxygen and Nitrous Oxide) Line Sizing

NFPA 99 defines the medical gas systems for all healthcare facilities based on a number of factors all related to the safety of the patients who are connected to them. Each medical gas “system” from the source equipment to the outlet/inlet termination point can be placed into one of three categories or “levels”. The least stringent requirements are applicable to Level 3 facilities which are typically (but not necessarily always) dental facilities.

One of the requirements for the oxygen and nitrous oxide piping systems for Level 3 facilities is that the line sizes for each of these gases be different so as to clearly distinguish separation of the piping systems as they are routed throughout the facility. Para. of the 2005 edition of NFPA 99 dictates a minimum line size of (NPS 3/8” or ½” OD) for oxygen systems and (NPS ¼” or 3/8” OD) for nitrous oxide systems. The intent of this distinction is to prevent cross connection of these two gases as explained in Para. A. Most of these source systems (manifolds) are manufactured as a common enclosure for both gases, with two copper feed lines extending out from the top of the enclosure. Sometimes these feed lines are the same line size, which can be confusing, especially if these lines are not correctly labeled.

Recently, (March 2009) a terrible accident occurred in Togonoxie, KS when a patient in a dental office was given nitrous oxide gas instead of oxygen, as a practitioner intended. According to news reports, this mistake was due to the “incorrect connection of the medical gas lines.” The full article on this medical gas mishap can be viewed at:

Surgery centers, are you tracking your medical gas usage?

Most hospitals and larger facilities have personnel who are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of their medical gas source equipment, but what about smaller facilities and surgery centers who do not have an on-site maintenance staff?

The majority of service calls we receive from surgery centers are for suspected leaks in a manifold or a lag alarm on a vacuum pump. The facility discovers this when they have returned to the facility and alarms are blaring. At this point it is an emergency, but this emergency is usually preventable.

Using simple daily logs, the facility can begin tracking what their average usage is. If deviations start to show in the amount of gas used or hours tallied on the vacuum pumps, it will become apparent before it is an emergency. This will also help the facility’s service company diagnose the problem.

For more information on tracking your usage and for free downloadable forms please contact EMGS at or visit

Medical Gas Brazing Continuity

Brazing Continuity

Once an individual has passed an ASSE 6010 Installer course they are required to submit a brazing continuity affidavit, stating that they have successfully brazed using the proper procedure. This is done on a 6 month basis. At EMGS, Inc. we mail continuity forms to all of our installers and require them to sign and return them for verification of this requirement. The code reference for this requirement is below:

The 2005 edition of NFPA 99 in paragraph states:

“Performance qualification of brazers shall remain in effect indefinitely unless the brazer does not braze with the qualified procedure for a period exceeding 6 months; or there is a specific reason to question the ability of the brazer.”

If you hold an Installer license, it is very important that you adhere to this so there is no lapse in the validity of your license. Please check periodically with your certifying agency for requirements and examine your brazing license to be sure all expiration dates are valid.