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In its early days, thermal imaging was a new technology to the fire service and was met with distrust and lack of understanding. Over the years, manufacturers have made great strides in simplifying the utilization and operation while various fire service entities have worked just as hard to raise education and awareness. The result has been an explosion in the adoption of thermal imaging, but a decrease in the amount of requests for training.
Have we succeeded in breaking down barriers to adoption or have we over-sold and over-simplified? Has thermal imaging become so accepted and so easy to use that nobody feels the need for training? After all, what can that guy possibly talk about for four hours?
If seeing through smoke is all you want to do, you will find no criticism from me. The ability to see through smoke and the efficiencies and improvements in safety that ability brings completely justifies the purchase price, but there is so much more to know and do.
In the current economic conditions, many departments are running short-staffed. So many departments are dealing with budget crises that even mutual aid is difficult to rely on as neighboring departments are often struggling in very similar ways.
I know a fire department that responded to a residential structure fire recently and all they could muster were two engines and six firefighters. This was a career department surrounded by other career departments, but there simply aren’t any extra resources any more. Please take every advantage you can to reinforce, address or improve firefighter safety.
Can you identify thermal layers inside a structure? How about selecting the best location for vertical ventilation and then monitoring its effectiveness? Can you identify pre-flashover conditions so you can get out of the way before the train comes down the tracks? Do you know how to identify parapet walls and other structural hazards? If not, seek training.
If you want a good place to start, go to the archives of this column on Firehouse.com. If that is not exciting, then Google it. If you want more than that, contact some folks for training. There are many companies conducting excellent training today – call one of them.
Seeing through smoke is just the tip of the iceberg.