All too often, I am confronted with the issue of whether a thermal imager is necessary. I have heard all kinds of reasons not to carry the thermal imager, including, "It's too heavy," "It will only slow me down," "I have too many other tools to carry" and "I don't really need a thermal imager...
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• Firefighting efficiency — It wasn't that long ago that whenever you wanted to drive to a destination you had never been to, you were forced to call for directions and write them down turn by turn. Computer software and the Internet changed this paradigm quickly; however, the most efficient way now is the magic box that sits on many dashboards or attaches to many windshields. You simply enter your destination and the all-too-familiar voice guides you turn by turn. There is no voice direction on your thermal imager, but it can serve as a sort of GPS to the seat of the fire. By monitoring directionality of convected air currents, the firefighter can follow them back to the source.
The thermal imager can aid in both the need for and the evaluation of the effectiveness of ventilation. When forcing internal doors or windows, manipulating tools, evaluating the effectiveness of the chosen fire stream pattern and location or breaching walls, the thermal imager can improve the efficiency and the overall safety of the operation.
BRAD HARVEY is the Thermal Imaging Product Manager at Bullard. He is a veteran of public safety as a firefighter, police officer and paramedic and is certified through the Law Enforcement Thermographers' Association (LETA) as a thermal imaging instructor. Harvey has worked as a high-angle rescue instructor and is a certified rescue technician and fire instructor. If you have questions about thermal imaging, you may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.