Thermal Imaging Training: Overhaul

Photo courtesy of Bullard Photo 1 shows two images of the same scene. The fire has been knocked down, and firefighters are overhauling the ceiling. The image on the left shows how the scene appears normally on the TI display. Most of the image is...


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The best way to get comfortable using the TI during overhaul is to use it after knockdown at every fire. Yes, every fire…car fires, trash fires and structure fires. While firefighters do not “overhaul” vehicle or trash fires in the traditional sense of the word, using the TI can be a learning experience. These incidents give firefighters the opportunity to see how the effects of fire change the heat signatures of objects and alter their appearance on a TI. These incidents also give firefighters practice in using the various indicators and tools on the TI to help them identify hotspots that require additional overhaul.

Additionally, use these fire incidents to practice using the manual iris control, or watch for a change in sensitivity levels indicated by the shutter fire and EI mode indicator. Look for changes in the display and changes in which areas are portrayed as “hotspots” on the display. Watch with the TI as another firefighter sprays down an area with water, and see how the picture on the TI display improves.

Table Talk

The firehouse kitchen can also be a good place to practice image interpretation during overhaul. While you are brewing coffee, place cups of warm and hot water near the coffee maker. Examine how the different objects appear and, more importantly, how the indicators and tools of your TI help you identify which objects are hotter.

Similar practice scenarios can be set up using the stove or oven, especially while preparing meals. Examine burners or pans to see how they are displayed differently as they heat and cool. Again, practice using the additional tools and indicators on your TI to determine which objects are hottest.

Final Report

The ability to use a TI effectively in overhaul requires practice. You cannot expect to use your thermal imager two or three times per month and become proficient at analyzing overhaul scenes. Be sure you are using your TI as frequently as possible to understand how the subtleties of the images can change your course of action. Also, do not forget the traditional overhaul investigative techniques that can help you confirm your image interpretations.

For more ideas on successfully using TIs during overhaul, visit the Technology section of Firehouse.com.


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.