How to Use the Features of Your Thermal Imager

Thermal imaging has advanced significantly in the past eight years. Durability, reliability, image quality and battery life have all improved. As firefighters have become more comfortable with thermal imaging, manufacturers have supplied more features...


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The major advantage of this feature is that it allows firefighters to examine a scene more closely without exposing themselves to greater danger. It can be helpful in hazmat situations, overhaul, search and rescue or even when firefighters are looking for hidden fire. The disadvantage of digital zoom is that the enlarged image becomes blocky, or pixilated, which can make it more difficult to interpret.

Picture Capture

Essentially, picture capture incorporates a digital camera into a thermal imager, allowing firefighters to capture and store images from incidents. After the incident, the images can then be downloaded to a computer and saved for future use. Different manufacturers use different image formats and download processes.

The picture capture feature can be extremely helpful for training purposes, as it gives firefighters the capability to easily save and review actual images from real emergencies. This allows them to share educational tips with the rest of the department, or to help teach image interpretation skills to newer members. Fire officers can use the images to help with report writing, fire investigation and incident documentation.

Conclusion

Fire service thermal imagers have developed significantly from the simple white-gray-black systems of the past. As firefighters have demanded more options and features, manufacturers have addressed these demands. Colorization, when properly used and understood, can enhance firefighter safety by helping you understand the fire environment better. Digital zoom can help firefighters examine questionable scenes from a greater distance, while picture capture capabilities give firefighters greater training and record-keeping capabilities.

As always, be sure to practice with any features on your TI and train all members on proper safety procedures and image interpretation.


Jonathan Bastian is the former thermal imaging training manager at Bullard. He is certified as a thermal imaging instructor by the Law Enforcement Thermographers’ Association (LETA), the international public safety organization specializing in thermal imager certification and training. He is also a member of the NFPA Technical Committee on Fire Service Training. Educated at Brown University and licensed as a high school teacher in Illinois, Bastian served 12 years on the North Park, IL, Fire Department, including the last three as a captain. As health and safety officer, he led the development and implementation of the department’s rapid intervention team SOG. Bastian is a certified Fire Instructor I and Firefighter III, and he spent 12 years as an EMT-I/D. He has taught classes on thermal imaging, rapid intervention teams, and search and rescue operations. Bullard is happy to answer any questions about thermal imaging; contact the company at info@bullard.com.