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• Firefighters cannot rely on the TI as their only means of orientation. Use your TI as a tool to enhance your normal procedures, not replace them.
• Practice, practice, practice and train, train, train. This training does not need to be topical to the thermal imager; rather, the TI can be integrated into all of your other training topics. If you are training on search and rescue, ventilation, hazmat or fire attack, make sure the TI is a part of that training.
One of the biggest challenges in using the TI for fire attack is coordinating TI usage with hoseline advancement. Setting some time aside to practice a few company drills can help perfect operations while allowing the company to become more comfortable with the thermal imager.
Decide who will be responsible for the TI. The nozzleman? The second firefighter on the line? The company officer? There are pros and cons to each, but practice and decide ahead of time. Practice stretching dry attack lines into the apparatus bay. Firefighters can be assigned to specific seats to ensure that each firefighter gets practice leading out the attack line or backing up the line while carrying the TI. Have the hose team practice advancing the line and simulating area scans with the TI.
Remember, as the team advances, the person using the TI cannot fall victim to tunnel vision. They cannot stare at the TI display the whole time. They should use the TI to orient themselves and the team, and then secure the TI while helping to advance the line. Be sure the firefighter with the TI verbalizes observations with the rest of the company; there is a natural human instinct to assume that others see what you see.
Unique fire risks
After practicing hoseline advancement with the TI, discuss some of the unique fire risks in your response areas and how they may affect your hose advancement. Are there structures that may require you to bring additional tools along? How are these extra tools carried to ensure that the TI is easily accessible? How can the TI assist in applying or using these special tools?
Your TI can be a vital tool for extinguishing any fire; not just those that are hidden or difficult to locate. Proper use and image interpretation can help firefighters advance more quickly and more safely into the structure, as well as find and extinguish the fire more efficiently. Efficiency in locating and extinguishing the fire gets the firefighter out of harm’s way quicker, reduces time at risk and has a significant impact on firefighter safety.
If there is smoke, there is fire, and if there is fire, there should be a thermal imager every time. n