Thermal Imager Certification

Oct. 10, 2003
Thermal imagers are quickly becoming essential tools for fire departments around the country.
Thermal imagers are quickly becoming essential tools for fire departments around the country. Despite the fact they have become physically easier to operate, they are still technical pieces of equipment that require an appropriate amount of training. To date, the objectives of the training have been determined by training companies. An example would be the thermal imager manufacturer who employs a full time training staff. While these training programs from these companies have certainly helped guide the fire service, they are not standardized nor certified.

There is now a standard, certified TI training program available, which is overseen and certified by an independent organization. LETA (Law Enforcement Thermographers' Association) recently announced its fire service TI training program. It is the first program that allows firefighters to earn certification from an internationally recognized public safety organization. LETA, long recognized as the authority on thermal imagers used in police work, developed the program in response to regular inquiries from the fire service. LETA is also expanding its membership to include the fire service.

LETA, founded in 1995, is a professional law enforcement organization dedicated to promoting the legal and ethical use of thermal imaging in support of law enforcement operations. LETA membership, originally limited to those engaged in or supporting law enforcement, has been expanded to accept all those engaged in providing or supporting public safety. LETA law enforcement training is recognized across the USA, as well as internationally. The US Federal Bureau of Investigation, the US Drug Enforcement Administration, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and a number of state and local agencies currently use LETA for their thermal imaging training.

Firefighters can be certified by LETA in Basic Thermal Imaging, Advanced Thermal Imaging, and even as a Thermal Imaging Instructor. To become a Fire Service Instructor, an individual must successfully complete the Basic and Advanced classes and be invited by the LETA Board of Directors to become an instructor. The candidate must meet certain minimum requirements in actual fire service experience and demonstrate an ability to teach the subject material.

This is a new program, but it has a well-developed content with clearly defined educational objectives. While there are a number of local academies and private organizations that have developed training programs, the LETA program is the first national education standard for thermal imagers.

If you are interested in more details, please read the FAQ section below. Otherwise, feel free to email me at [email protected] with additional questions.


What's covered in the Basic Thermal Imaging for Firefighters class?

What's covered in the Advanced Thermal Imaging for Firefighters class?

How long does a class last?

How do I get certified in Basic or Advanced thermal imaging?

How much does it cost?

How can I get a training event in my area?

You can also visit to find available fire service training locations. Note that some training sessions may not qualify for certification and some sessions may not be open to other organizations. Email [email protected] if you have questions or need additional information.

As additional instructors are certified, new delivery methods should become available. You can also contact LETA directly at Classes directly through LETA may require an additional fee to cover instructor travel expenses.

Can I join LETA?

Is there group membership for fire departments?

Why should I or my department join LETA?
Fire service members receive the following benefits from LETA membership. As this program grows, we expect this list to expand:

  • Expert witness support and assistance if a fire department's use of a thermal imager is an issue in a court of law;
  • Regular newsletter updating LETA members about changes in law, creative new applications, additional training, etc.;
  • Access to WMD First Responder programs as they are developed;
  • Professional interaction with law enforcement agencies across the world;
  • Assistance finding other grant sources;
  • Access to LETA's national and international training events and conferences.

Jonathan Bastian is a Thermal Imaging Specialist for Bullard. He is certified as a thermal imaging instructor by the Law Enforcement Thermographers' Association (LETA). He is also the author of the FD Training Network "FireNotes" book, Thermal Imaging for the Fire Service. Bastian served 12 years on the North Park, IL, Fire Department, including the last three as a captain. He has taught classes on thermal imaging, rapid intervention teams and search and rescue operations. He is currently a police officer in Lexington, Kentucky. If you have questions about thermal imaging, please send them to [email protected].

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