Firefighter friendly Thermal Imaging

Sam Hittle

Thermal imaging is one of the most misunderstood disciplines on the fire ground today. Too often, fire fighters with this tool in hand, approach their tactical objectives believing that the camera will execute the necessary thinking to derive at the critical information needed for success.

Regrettably, this is not the case. The camera is only capable of performing interpretations within its inherent limitations. The technician is responsible for the critical thinking required to conclude what is truly occurring on the fire ground. It is vital that fire fighters using a camera understand and appreciate both its capabilities and limitations to successfully assess conditions for positive mitigation. The basics, such as white is hot, black is cold, and victim identification will be fast and easy are lies without imager comprehension, training, and drilling.

Unfortunately, this is the extent of thermal imager knowledge most of the fire service is operating with today. This class will address how to efficiently utilize thermal imager technology in all facets of the fire ground including structural size up, extent of fire conditions, interior size up, suppression, hybrid search techniques with and without rope support, exterior search pitfalls, ventilation, reading smoke from the interior vantage point, overhaul, smells and bells alarms, and hazmat. It is easy to appreciate what the camera can do.

To be efficient and successful we must talk about what it can’t do. Only when we recognize the limitations, operate competently with the capabilities, and recognize the camera is there to help us do more, not less, at our fires will we enhance our tactical decisions