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August 11, 2014
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Avoid these 2 killer Breathalyzer mistakes

Here are two mistakes to avoid when determining the type of and usage of Breathalyzer tests

This following is paid content sponsored by LifeLoc Technologies.

By PoliceOne Staff

Today’s officers are tasked not only with protecting the community, their colleagues and themselves but also with learning about and properly deploying myriad technologies.

As a result, it is important to learn about common user errors. Here are the top two mistakes often made when choosing and using a Breathalyzer.

1. Choosing a semiconductor breath tester over a platinum fuel cell breath tester

No law-enforcement device should use semiconductor alcohol measurement technology. Semiconductor breath alcohol sensing technology is not approved by the Department of Transportation or the Food and Drug Administration for the accurate measurement of Breath Alcohol Content (BAC).

Semiconductor devices can give positive alcohol readings even when no alcohol is present. Semiconductor devices also have a short life span.

Instead, platinum fuel cell technology is the gold standard for law enforcement portable breath testers. Fuel cell measurements are alcohol specific and are accurate across a wide alcohol concentration range from .000 to .400 BAC.

In addition, fuel cell instruments have a long working life and many manufacturers will provide warranties on their fuel cells for the life of the instrument.

The combination of a long working life, calibration stability, alcohol specificity and high precision all add up to a device that when maintained properly can be trusted to perform well for many years.

2. Confusing a calibration with a calibration check

The steps required to perform a manual calibration check (also known as a “verification,” “cal check,” “external calibration check” or “accuracy check”) can be similar to the steps of a PBT calibration. Understanding the differences is important.  

Calibrating a breath tester sets the instrument’s BAC measurement to a known alcohol concentration from a dry gas mixture of alcohol and nitrogen or from a wet bath solution of alcohol and water. 

In fact, calibrating a PBT is comparable to setting your watch to the time you know to be correct from an independent source. (In the case of PBT calibration, the independent source is the dry gas cylinder of a known alcohol concentration.) A calibration check verifies that the EBT is reading correctly but does not reset it. “Cal checking” a PBT is similar to verifying that your watch’s time is accurate by comparing it’s time to an accurate source.

Indeed, automatic PBT calibration and accuracy verification eliminate the chances of human error. 

Keeping these two steps in mind will help ensure you have the right tool to gather accurate data for investigation and arrest, as well as help you seamlessly handle an incident with confidence that the data supports your actions.




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