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Applying the skills and practice in a real-life search or rescue is the final exam. Figure 1 shows an image captured during a bedroom search in a single-family dwelling, while Figure 2 is an image from a hallway search in a shipboard fire. Decide if we have anything worth investigating, and if so, where.
In Figure 1, the child under the bed is obvious. The second child is on the bed, under the covers. Blankets and comforters keep people warm by holding in heat; a child may not heat up the surface of the comforter enough to be visible to your TI. This is the clearest example of why all beds must be searched on top and underneath by hand, regardless of what the imager may show.
Figure 2 demonstrates how it is form and location that help determine a human, not necessarily color on the display. Because the victim is in a fire environment, the walls of the ship are warmer than a person. The victim, being cooler, displays as gray on the imager.
Answers for Table Talk:
1. This could be difficult if the ground is 88 degrees Fahrenheit, as this is near the skin temperature of a human. Shape is the critical part, as the shades on the thermal imager will be similar.
2. Exposed body parts, such as the face, should be easy to identify. However, as the snow builds up on the person’s coat, the person will blend in thermally with the background. Small hot spots may be key in the search, but do not neglect odd shapes or forms that blend into the cold snow.
3. Initially, searching for a warm body in a cold environment should be clear-cut. As the cold rain soaks through the clothing, it will get harder to find the person. Hypothermia will further complicate the matter. This could be a race against time. Early in the search, hot spots are key; as time advances, shape and form will become more important.
4. With no precipitation to affect the clothing of the person, this situation should be relatively easy and have the longest span for success. This should be a white object against a gray background.
5. Since thermal imagers do not see through water, only those body parts above water (such as the head and arms) will be visible. Heavy, wet clothing may block some of the person’s heat. Generally, a person floating in the water will show as a hot spot in a span of gray or black.
Jonathan Bastian is the thermal imaging training manager at Bullard. He leads the training team, whose primary effort is to educate the fire service on the safe and proper use of thermal imagers. Bastian 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. Bastian is happy to answer any questions about thermal imaging; contact him at email@example.com.