1. #1
    Firehouse.com Guest

    Post Concerns on using thermal imagers.

    You guys are probablly going to eat me alive on this, I haven't yet bought into the thermal imager craze. First of all let me say I have looked at quite a few cameras and have tested ;scott, bullard, cairns viper and iris and have had may hands on most of the other cameras out there. These are all great tools some have bugs that need to be worked out. But thier concept is great.
    My problem is that the manufactors of these tools jumped on the band wagon hard and fast.
    A lot of hype was put into them aimed at the public as well as the fire service until they have been seen as the cure all for the fire service. What I mean is there are departments out there using apprataus that is thirty years old and could use replacing and instead they are getting cameras. Others out there look at the camera as a way to cut training cost. Why teach a fireman search and rescue techinque we can see in the dark.
    I am just afrid that this tool is going to lead to training taking a back seat.Also I don't Know how it is any where else but maintance is a problem in my deparment. I would hate to have men injured because a two dollar battery wasn't changed.
    I'm done have at me boys.

  2. #2
    Firehouse.com Guest


    I doubt anyone will slam you. Anyhow, I agree with everything you say, it's true. I would like to give you an example of where our camera did some good. We recently ran a call for smoke in a church. We get on scene, sure enough church is charged with smoke, but where is it coming from? The camera found it in 5 minutes. It was in the ceiling, the church had been struck by lightning. (I am not going to dwell on that) Anyhow, my point is without the camera how much damage would we have done to the church looking for the fire using the old fashion method? I plan never to depend totally on the camera, but it could save my life someday. Give cameras a chance, remember it is just a tool, not a miracle.

  3. #3
    Firehouse.com Guest



    I also agree with some of what you said. Thermal Imaging is not the cure-all solution to the fire service. But, examples, such as the one from FFLEEMS, is a simple solution to a problem we face on a regular basis.

    Thermal Imaging will assist our brothers and sisters to get out alive, while we serve the public. We can find the hot spots without ripping out every wall in the place. We can find the victims in half the time with half the manpower and so on.

    The truth of the matter is, your next call may be a working fire, CO alarm, suspicious smoke or a drug lab. You never know what you are getting into until your there.

    As always Train, Train, Train. Having a Thermal Imaging camera does not mean you take chances. You still have to rely on basic firefighting skills in case something goes wrong. You can't just give a firefighter a camera and expect them to know how to use it or know what they are looking at.

    Do not give up completely on Thermal Imaging even though you have reservations on the technology.

    ISG Dealer

  4. #4
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Thanks to FFLEEMS and FIRETIC.I value your imput. I just want to go on record as saying I'm not totally against TIC. But in the example given a laser thermometer would have provided the same out come at less cost to your department and is small enough to fit in a bunker pocket or snap on a SCBA D-ring.
    But because the manufactors of these items were slow to recongnize a market in fire fighting most in the fire service have never heard of such a thing. I do realize that this type of tool is not as versitle as thermal imaging. But it is another tool in our bag of tricks. My concerns toward TIC are white outs, interferance from radio and other electronis equipment operating on the scene.
    I' m glad to hear that training is still important to you as users of TIC.
    I think we have a good discussion going I hope others will keep it going.

  5. #5
    S. Cook
    Firehouse.com Guest


    We have some automatic aid departments that feel the same way you do. But one of the first things they ask for when we show up is the imager.

    Before I get started let me say, a questioning mind is good to have. It can keep you out of a lot of trouble.

    I agree TICs are not the be all to end all, but...

    1. A TIC will benefit you in any situation where a change in temperature will give you a clue as to what's happening.

    2. Although I believe a laser thermometer or other "hot spotting" devices have their place in the fire service. With a TIC you can scan an area many times quicker than a laser thermometer and see the results.

    - You will not find a victim with a laser thermometer.

    - You will not see the hole in the floor with a laser thermometer.

    - You will not see the ceiling about to collapse with a alaser thermometer.

    3. A TIC will allow you to see your way into and out of the fire building.

    >What I mean is there are departments out there using apprataus that is thirty years old and could use replacing and instead they are getting cameras.

    And new SCBAs and bunker gear and the list goes on.

    >Others out there look at the camera as a way to cut training cost.

    I'd like to meet or just know the name of person that feels this way.

    >Why teach a fireman search and rescue techinque we can see in the dark.

    The basic are still the basics. Firefighters should still be taught to seach in the dark. In fact in training we require our folks to do it this way, training with the TICs on the 2nd or 3rd go 'round.

    >I would hate to have men injured because a two dollar battery wasn't changed.

    In vehicle charging systems like those from Bullard and FireOptic make this a moot point.

    But on the other hand, (just playing a little devil's advocate here) how would you feel if you had one (or more) injured or killed because you didn't buy into the TIC "craze." If a TIC could have prevented that outcome, what would you say to your fellow firefighters and the families when you know that it could have been prevented? I asure you telling them "I haven't yet bought into the thermal imager craze" or, (as little as) "$11,500 is too much to spend" is not the right answer.

    We always say "if it saves one life it's worth it" to justify almost every large expense we've made (e.g. jaws). When we say it we're talking about the public, but what about the firefighter? If a TIC saves one firefighter would it be worth it? It's quite possible that many are dead for lack of one and I know four that are alive because of one.

    I don't know how old you are or how long you've been in the fire service. But if you've been around long enough (say 30 years or so), you probably didn't buy in to SCBAs, Jaws, full turnouts, enclosed cabs, incident command, nomex hoods, 1.75" hose, large diameter hose and more that in all probability you're using now and glad you have it.

    The TIC is just a tool. Treat it and use it that way and you will not have any problems. You will find that it will enhance your operations.

    If your department decides this is something that you don't need then that's fine, but don't call it a craze.

    Stay Safe,


    [This message has been edited by S. Cook (edited July 10, 2000).]

  6. #6
    Firehouse.com Guest



    I'm a New Jersey firefighter. New Jersey has a program aimed at providing every department with at least one TIC, free of charge.

    I'm a big "fan" of TICs, possibly one of the crazed few, but I see a lot of value in the TICs.

    First, last December we has a room and contents (kitchen) fire in a small bungalow (4 rooms). First and second engines arrived together, as officer on second engine, our task was to open windows to ventilate and provide access through front door (PD was unable to open from outside, multiple locks. The house was full of furniture and myself and crew member had to fumble our way through (we immediately discovered that all windows were security locked shut). The hoseline crew knocked the fire down in 30 seconds or so. It took us another minute or so just to make a path wide enough to crawl through to the front door. I unlocked the first and second locks with no problems. The third had a skeleton key in it. Unfortunately, my hand knocked the key out onto ground and the outside crew had to break the door to get in.

    Now having taken up a lot of your time, the point is, with a TIC and the proper training, we could have navigated the furniture quicker, observed the skeleton key prior to knocking it out or located it on the floor. This would have cut down on damage and time.

    Another fire, knocked down by sprinkler in 200,000 square foot warehouse, took 5-10 minutes to find way through smoke to the flooded out area. TIC would have saved time. (of course an alarm panel with zones would have helped too.)

    I can go on and on (most here will say that I do), but there is a real benefit to both time and property of having a TIC and proper training.

    The above is MY OPINION only and not that of anyone else. I am not representing any organization in making a post here!!!!

  7. #7
    Firehouse.com Guest


    Hello All and Welcome Mr. 28-1,

    Glad to see you voiced your opinion on these issues, based on my personal experiences and the responses it is apparent that many others in the Fire Service have similar feelings. My feelings on some of these matters :

    The Fire Service has been getting involved with “crazes” for a long time. Haz Mat, Confined Space Rescue, Trench Rescue, Swift Water Rescue, and Weapons of Mass Destruction are just a few of them. On one hand this is good because it means people have recognized the fact that these types of responses require training and equipment beyond the scope of normal fire suppression or EMS activities. Many firefighters could give McGuyver a run for the money, but there are definitely times when a basic firefighting class and a hose or ladder will just not cut it. These “crazes” have also been beneficial because in many cases they have made special funding programs available that would have otherwise never existed. There is no question most Fire Departments have a number of things they need money for and they will have an almost impossible battle trying to get it. (I know of a department that lost city funding to replace a 30 year old truck because the city manger decided it was more important to replace a failing garbage truck, the fire truck was just going to sit 90 percent of the time, the new garbage truck would be used daily) By no means should they stop trying to get the money for those “less popular” items, but they should also not turn down readily available funds for specialized equipment that is available because it is a “hot topic or craze”. On the down side these “crazes” can distract personnel from ensuring they have the “core” requirements for training and equipment covered. There have been a number of personnel who have been advocating a return to the “basics” and I think it is absolutely critical that whether it is training or equipment the basics must be covered. If not the Fire Service will quickly become “jack of all trades, master of none”. However we can not ignore the specialty issues or advances that are being made. There is no question that the additional training and equipment that these crazes are bringing are saving numerous civilian and firefighter lives. I would hope we could ride the “crazes” for what they are worth, but also insure that we do not forget to cover the basics.

    As someone who makes a living as a trainer I really have a big problem with training issues. First and foremost I believe the amount and types of training taking place for thermal imaging is way below what it needs to be. I wish more people would agree with one of my favorite quotes, “there is more to thermal imaging training than changing a battery” (SAFE-IR). Unfortunately, I think many people feel if they can turn a unit on and understand “white is hot, black is cold” they are ready to go. Combine this with the fact that many users are also throwing out or never learning the “basics” and a recipe for disaster is being followed. I do not necessarily believe someone should go through all of their basic training without it including thermal imaging, but I do believe they have to know and use the basics just as well as they know and use the new techniques involved in thermal imaging. A firefighter who uses the “basics” and thermal imaging will be 100 times more safe and efficient than any firefighter who uses the basics alone. This statement is not just based on conjecture but the outcome of many real world incidents. The bottom line is the training has to get done and firefighters have to be able to do the right thing for the right time. The answer is not to take away the benefits of thermal imaging because firefighters forget the basics, the answer is to make sure they understand and use both.

    As far as the thermal imagers go, as someone who has used PEV, BST, and Bolometer based units, I can tell you (as others) the technology has come a long way. True “Whiteout” disappeared with the introduction of the new solid state BST and Bolometer units. Likewise these units can readily operate without interference from equipment such as portable radios. Durability has also increased tremendously, not to the point of being indestructible or failure proof, but to the point where they can used with a tremendous amount of confidence (they should never be relied on 100%). They are not all created equal but there are a number of very good units out there. They are also going to continue to improve on a daily basis, with new units appearing on a yearly basis.
    There is no question the Fire Service has a number of issues they need to deal with. Ultimately these issues must be resolved so the number of lives being lost on a daily basis can be reduced. The basics have got to be nailed down whether it is equipment, training, or operating procedures. My research, NIOSH’s research, or anyone else’s research will show the basics were lacking on a number of incidents and as a result people are dead. The Fire Service can not also remain to be “100 years of tradition unchanged by progress”. There are to many life saving pieces or equipment, training issues, and operating procedures out there to keep ignoring them. Once again research will quickly show how lives are being saved when something “new or trendy” is actually put into action and used as it should be.

    Enough of my ramblings but think about the following :

    Do you refuse a piece of free or subsidized life saving equipment because you need another piece of equipment, or do you take the free equipment and keep working on the other ?

    Do you take a life a piece of lifesaving equipment out of service because the operators are not using it properly, or do you take the operators out of service until they can show they will use the equipment properly ?

    The Fire Service is going to have to do a number of things differently if the number of firefighters dying in the line of duty is ever going to be reduced. Thermal imagers are saving lives, in many cases where no other form of equipment, training, or operating procedure could. If you are not sure I would recommend you check out the following :

    Good Luck, Be Safe,

    Mike Richardson
    Bullard TI Training Specialist

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