Thermal Imaging For the Fire Instructor

The job of a fire instructor is often a thankless one. Juggling the various standards of minimum skills assessments while attempting to provide relevant, in-depth training spanning the gamut of operational responsibilities of a multi-discipline department...


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If you want to address the differences between solid and broken streams, the TI will show you exactly the difference between reach and penetration versus rapid conversion and heat absorption. Old topics become new again, not because the physics or opinions change; rather, because the method of showing and explaining has.

Recognize effects of ventilation. You can also use the TI to visually display the effects of ventilation in a room. Without a TI, the only indication of effective ventilation is whether or not you felt it. With a TI, you can actually see it. If working in a room equipped with a vertical vent, open it and watch what happens to the thermal conditions within the room. Open the door or window and watch what happens to the thermal layers. Apply positive-pressure ventilation (PPV) and again monitor the changes.

What happens when a hose stream is introduced in combination with ventilator efforts? Because the TI sees only heat (not light), you are directly observing how the various ventilation techniques affect the fire situation. This feeds to a direct understanding of ventilation in a very visual way – different than any textbook could deliver.

Whether teaching TI skills or merely discussing fire behavior or ventilation tactics, the TI can go a long way towards clarity of understanding as it directly exposes the heat element to the visibility of the learner. Otherwise nebulous topics such as thermal layering or the heat absorption of a particular hose stream become concrete and tangible when you can directly see it. Adding thermal imaging to the instructor toolbox can extend instructional capabilities and enhance student learning.

BRAD HARVEY is the Thermal Imaging Product Manager at Bullard. He is a veteran of public safety as a firefighter, police officer and paramedic and is certified through the Law Enforcement Thermographers’ Association (LETA) as a thermal imaging instructor. Harvey has worked as a high-angle rescue instructor and is a certified rescue technician and fire instructor. If you have questions about thermal imaging, you may email him at brad_harvey@bullard.com.