July's Firehouse thermal imaging training article focuses on safety. This online article will describe how to make a safe, thorough search with a thermal imager while advancing through a structure.
The accompanying graphics depict a living room in a house; the furniture items include an entertainment center, several tables, a couch and two chairs. The dashed lines represent doorways; the circle with an X inside is a firefighter. The solid areas filled with diagonal black lines represent blind spots that cannot be cleared visually with the TI.
The key to safe navigation is to utilize the TI much as one might use a compass and map:
- Gain a visual reference,
- Choose a direction of travel,
- Choose a waypoint,
- Put away the tools and move to the waypoint.
Slide 1: When the firefighter enters the room, he performs his shoulder-to-shoulder, high-middle-low scan. Portions of the room are hidden from view, either by obstacles or the shape of the room. The firefighter chooses a right hand search and decides that the next waypoint is the opposite side of the entertainment center.
Slide 2: He and his partner crawl there and search near the entertainment center either by hand or with the TI. The TI operator then performs another full scan. This clears more of the room visually, and the firefighter chooses his next waypoint as the opposite side of the couch.
Slide 3: Once he crawls to the opposite side of the couch, he quickly searches near the couch and performs a complete TI scan of the room, visually clearing the rest of the room. He is also at the next doorway, where he can start the process again in the next room or area.
By moving methodically through the room, and using the TI to enhance his search, the firefighter will successfully search the room with greater precision and do so more quickly. As the graphics above show, the firefighter must remember that there may be blind spots in the search that will need to be cleared. The blind spots can be cleared by viewing the area from another angle, or by searching the area by hand.
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Jonathan Bastian is a Thermal Imaging Specialist for Bullard. He is certified as a thermal imaging instructor by the Law Enforcement Thermographers' Association (LETA). He is also the author of the FD Training Network "FireNotes" book, Thermal Imaging for the Fire Service. Bastian served 12 years on the North Park, IL, Fire Department, including the last three as a captain. He has taught classes on thermal imaging, rapid intervention teams and search and rescue operations. He is currently a police officer in Lexington, Kentucky. If you have questions about thermal imaging, please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.