Thread: Pros and Cons

  1. #1
    nsfirechap Guest

    Post Pros and Cons

    I've heard lots of pros about T.I.C. But would like to hear the negatives - especially when it comes to tactics in using them.

  2. #2
    TIman Guest


    Hello All,

    There are a number of problems that can arise with the use of a thermal imager, here are a few of the most common :

    Standing & Walking – Having had their sight returned by the thermal imager, many firefighters are now standing and walking through a burning structure. Of course This can expose them to rapidly increasing heat conditions and can increase the chances of falling through an opening in the floor. Using the sight given by the thermal imager to walk can rapidly speed up operations, but care must be taken that speed is not being traded for safety.

    Advancing Without Reference Points – Firefighters should always maintain a physical reference point. However now that they are no longer blinded by smoke many of them are giving up these “lifelines” out of the structure. This can happen because they simply feel that they no longer need them or that they can speed up an operation by taking a more direct route away from landmarks. These may hold true, but if the thermal imager fails or is lost, so will the sight that they are relying on to get them safely back out of the structure.Many departments are placing a rope with their thermal imagers to be deployed and used as a lifeline in place of the more traditional reference points. This can allow an operation to be speeded but the lifeline is in place so safety is not sacrificed.

    Advancing To Quickly – Having had their sight restored firefighters can move very quickly and deeply into a structure. However, when they find themselves running low on air they can be in great peril if they can not make an exit with the same speed they made their entry. Once again, a unit failure, lose of the unit, or unpredicted changes in the structure could all slow the exit stranding firefighters in the structure without air. Having sight and being free from traditional reference points can also allow firefighters to quickly make it into areas that they would have not otherwise reached. This can place them in areas where the possibility of structural collapse or unpredictable fire conditions are greatly increased. Care must also be taken that the fast moving firefighter with the thermal imager does not leave the rest of the firefighters behind. The firefighter with the thermal imager needs to make sure that they are communicating what they are seeing with the other crew members so that everyone in the group can benefit from the information it provides. Another advantage of this communication is that it should help to keep the crews together.

    Advancing to Slowly – To fast or to slow ? While the majority of firefighters will greatly increase the speed of their operations, there are some who will actually slow down as they struggle with the thermal imager. They will tend to be the ones who have little training or practical experience with the unit. Care must be taken that this loss of speed does not place other firefighters in jeopardy who are relying on the slow operators to quickly complete an operation. Care must also be taken that the firefighters are not distracted trying to operate the unit to a point that they would miss a potential hazard or victim.

    Bad Decisions Based on Bad Information – The images the thermal imager provides must be interpreted, and without training and experience it is very easy to misread the information that they are providing. Thus what is actually good information can quickly become bad information. Firefighters must also insure that they understand the information provided by additional features on the thermal imager such as temperature measurement / readout. All of these temperature measurement features have a potential for error, how great it is and in what applications it is most common must be clearly identified and understood.

    Wrong Tool for the Job – Unfortunately some people are trying to use thermal imagers in applications where it will be of little benefit or may actually turn out to be a danger. Two incidents clearly come to mind : I received a publication in which the picture on the front page was of firefighters in a boat using a thermal to try and recover a body under the surface of the water. Infrared energy will not pass through water, so there was no chance of the victim being identified. I received a news video in which the story was that firefighters were using their new thermal imager to monitor a very large natural gas leak. Most gases are “invisible” to a thermal imager so a thermal imager should not always be counted on to identify a gas cloud. More importantly I know of no Fire Service thermal imager that is intrinsically safe, so obviously they should not be used in a potentially flammable atmosphere.

    While there can be some argument over what is the most common cause of problems, there are at least 6 areas that clearly stand out as equal contenders. They include:

    Lack of Knowledge & Training

    Lack of official guidance – to date most official agencies such as the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) have not issued official standards on thermal imaging training. As such many of the supporting materials, such a textbooks or training manual, also have not been developed.

    Lack of qualified instructors

    Lack of perception that detailed training is needed – fortunately most of today’s thermal imagers are very easy to operate. Unfortunately it is also this ease of operation that has lead many people to believe that very little training is actually needed.

    Lack of Practical Experience

    Over Confidence – Given the tremendous advantages that a thermal imager can provide many users are very eager to put it to use at every opportunity they get. As some of the problems identified earlier this can be a significant problem in numerous situations.

    The three most common solutions to these problems include:

    SOP / SOG


    Behavior Modification

    There should be no doubt that a thermal imager is one of the most valuable tools that any fire department can poses. However, just like any other tool it can be used correctly with excellent results or incorrectly with disastrous results. This will depend largely on how willing the department is to look for problems, identify the cause, and take an appropriate action to correct it. Remember:

    Make sure you are using the right tool for the right job.

    The “Basics of Firefighting” are not replaced or lost.

    The benefits of a thermal imager should be exploited to their fullest potential, but done so in a safe manner.

    Hope this helps, it is very important this issue gets addressed.

    Mike Richardson
    Bullard TI Training Specialist

    For TI Training :

    Also check out the next issue of Fire International and Bullard's TI Newsletter for addtional inforamtion on this topic.

    April 2001 issue of Firehouse also has an article on TI Training.

    [This message has been edited by TIman (edited 04-18-2001).]

  3. #3
    FF.1205 Guest


    It to me is one of the greatest advances in Firefighting since the SCBA in saving lives and even Firefighter's. I will offer this thought, just never forget it's just a tool and never forget your basics of survival with or without it.


    Stay low and Fight like you Train and Train like you Fight .

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