Training Preventive Maintenance and Care

Firefighters are a quirky bunch. Really, we are. Fire apparatus receive daily or weekly checks to ensure that all fluids are topped off and that everything functions as it should. Self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) are checked daily or weekly, plus before and after each use. Yet, when is the last time you painted and sharpened an axe? Or, when was the last time you cleaned the soot off the visor or goggles on your helmet? Sometimes, our preventive maintenance (PM) programs are extensive, while other times we just use (and abuse) equipment until it stops functioning.

Photos courtesy of Bullard
Photo 1. By writing an “expiration date” on the battery in clear, bold characters, the regular equipment check can verify that the battery is still “usable.” In addition, a new battery can be ordered in a timely manner prior to the battery losing most of its storage capacity.

Your department purchased a thermal imager that meets your needs from a supplier and manufacturer you trust. Yet even the most durable and trustworthy imager is a significant investment that requires some PM and care to ensure you get regular, reliable service from it.


Regardless of brand, all thermal imagers (TIs) require regular attention in four areas. Failure to pay attention to any one of these all but guarantees poor performance from the TI in the future.

1. Batteries are the weak link.

2. Water and electronics do not mix. Ever. Inside your thermal imager is an array of very sensitive electronics. While you may have left the factory with a water-tight TI, after you knock it against the banister, drop it on the floor and fall into a wall using your TI as a brace, you can bet you have knocked some gaskets or screws loose. If you allow the condition of your TI to deteriorate to the point that water gets inside the body, expect an expensive repair bill.

3. Gunk on the lens blocks the heat. It sounds logical, but lens care is a common oversight. Thermal imagers use germanium lenses, and a number of them have germanium windows that cover the lens.

4. Goop on the display screen blocks your view. While this may be the most obvious point to the user, it does not mean it can be overlooked. Evaluate and care for the video display as well as any protective covering.

Practical Applications

Paying attention to the essentials means enacting practices that prevent them. Consider the following: