Given today’s budget environment, equipment repairs can be especially painful. Equipment never seems to break down when coffers are full; rather, it seems that “Murphy’s Law” waits to take effect until there are no available funds. The unpredictability in both frequency and associated...
To access the remainder of this piece of premium content, you must be registered with Firehouse. Already have an account? Login
Register in seconds by connecting with your preferred Social Network.
Complete the registration form.
Given today’s budget environment, equipment repairs can be especially painful. Equipment never seems to break down when coffers are full; rather, it seems that “Murphy’s Law” waits to take effect until there are no available funds. The unpredictability in both frequency and associated costs make maintenance budgets erratic and difficult to plan accurately.
This can be particularly painful for critical equipment. Even though the cost of repair may be high, doing without the equipment is often times not desirable, so the chief has to once again find a way to come up with the money. While there is no way to guarantee that “Murphy” won’t come calling; certain things can be done to help keep “Murphy” at bay and even potentially improve the performance of your thermal imager.
• Operational checks – Many departments, as a part of daily apparatus checks, turn on the imager to make sure it is still operational. However, simply turning the imager on, seeing if an image is displayed and then turning it off again offers no real assurance that all is OK. In fact, this type of “check” may actually do more harm than good. The act of taking the battery off of the charger, drawing a very small amount of power from it and then placing it immediately back into the charger can decrease the performance of the battery over time. If the imager was operational when it was returned to the charger after the last use, turning it on is no guarantee that it will turn on the next time. If you are going to perform an operation check of the thermal imager each morning, then really check its operation.
Turn it on and check the image quality. Is it in focus? Focal distance for most thermal imagers is about three feet out to infinity. If an object 10 to 15 feet away appears blurry, then it is possible that the focus needs to be adjusted. While it is unusual for an imager to be out of focus, it is not unheard of.
Check the image for clarity. Is there any noise in the image? Noise looks a bit like background static. It is typically fixed and does not change location as the imager is moved.
Does the temperature measurement respond? Does the color activate as expected? Does the imager shift from high gain to low gain appropriately? All three can be tested with a stove. If you have a gas stove, a frying pan helps the process along. Turn on the stove and check that all works as expected. If there are any other features of the thermal imager or accessories attached, then make sure these operate as well.
• Power management – A frequent source of complaints about imager performance is power. Maybe the batteries don’t run long enough, don’t last long enough or don’t charge fast enough. While the issue of battery maintenance is too complex to cover in this column, there are ways to help your batteries perform at peak levels, regardless of physical condition. When you get a new battery, check the label for a date code. If it is missing, add one. It is nice to know how old a battery is since all batteries have an expected operational life. While this operational life is variable, age of the battery can help you identify a typical life span for your department so that you begin to predict and plan a replacement cycle.
Check the battery casing for damage. Damage such as cracks in the case can indicate a severe impact and may let dirt and debris get into the battery. More subtle damage such as swelling of the plastic can indicate a failure mode in the battery where the internal temperatures of the battery are getting too high during charging or use. All you will notice is that normally flat surfaces of the battery appear “domed.” This is different than external heat damage, which will normally appear bubbled or melted. Batteries that appear swollen should be removed from service because they can fail without warning.