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It is important to scan all vehicle seat positions once you find a heat signature on an empty seat inside a vehicle. Do not be distracted by discovering your first warm seat and stopping your TIC scanning. Remember that additional occupants may have been in the vehicle and need to be accounted for as well. At the scene, the TIC can also be valuable to scan the area immediately surrounding the crash scene. In a rural setting, for example, the TIC may be able to see the heat signature of a patient in a field of high grass or a thick wooded area where they normally may be hidden from sight otherwise.
Using member’s vehicles, conduct training with the department’s TIC to determine its sensitivity to heat differences on various vehicle seats. Have a member sit in a seat for a given period of time and then use the TIC to observe the seat once your member gets off the seat. Experiment with cloth-covered seats compared to vinyl or leather seat upholstery.
Try this drill in daylight with the sun shining on the seat cushion to determine the approximate life expectancy of the heat signature once the occupant exits and the seat is in direct sunlight. During cool nights, there is a longer timeframe in which you have to work with the TIC and still get reliable results. Warm weather and direct sunlight can seriously shorten your effective time. Experiment and find out for yourself. n
TASK: The rescue team shall conduct a skills practice session using a thermal imaging camera to observe the heat signature of a vehicle seat under various conditions.
Ron Moore, a Firehouse® contributing editor, retired as training chief for the McKinney, TX, Fire Department. He also authors a monthly online article in the Firehouse.com “MembersZone” and serves as the Forum Moderator for the extrication section of the Firehouse.com website. Moore can be contacted directly at Rmoore@firehouse.com.