Thermal Imagers for First Responders and Fire Fighters are used to locate casualties and hazards in total darkness, smoke, fog and fire. Thermal Imagers are used to measure surface temperature and temperature differential of surrounding areas for Commercial, Industrial, General and First Responder Use. They are now considered to be an essential tool utilized in many first responder applications including, but not limited to, Law Enforcement, Fire Fighting, Marine Safety and Home Land Security. They are now used and accepted world wide for Safety and Enforcement Searches. They are considered to be extremely powerful weapons that can be used by firefighters and emergency personnel in the fight against increased property damage as well as rescue of human life. The use of thermal cameras offers fire fighters a tactical, search and positioning advantage. A handheld thermal imager allows the observation and location of impending fire damage as well as locating and saving human life. This increases the probability of locating injured or hidden casualties in a fire as well as locating the source of high temperature and possible danger to structure and property.
The two figures below are representative of what is seen with night vision (Figure 1) and what is captured with a thermal imager (Figure 2). Figure 1 represents a typical night vision view of a park surrounded by trees and foliage. It is not apparent that there is any human life in the general surroundings. Using a Thermal Imager designed for first responders, figure 2 demonstrates that someone is behind the foliage. If the park vegetation was beginning to ignite, the location of the person in the woods offers an undeniable advantage to the rescue responder team.
Compare the same view
Primary Applications for First Responder and Fire Thermal Imaging Cameras
Figure 1: Night Vision Camera Figure 2: Thermal Image
- See through smoke, dust, and light fog
- See through camouflage and foliage in any lighting conditions
- See farther in zero visibility
- Significantly improve safety and mobility
- Find hidden or injured in fires
- Monitor temperatures for preventative maintenance and condition monitoring of equipment
- Fire Prevention surveys
- Monitoring the effectiveness of cooling
- Searching for a person in deep water
- Examining containers storing hazardous or flammable materials
- Road Traffic accidents
- Predict potential of Hidden Fire Flashover
- Locating the seat and spread of a fire
- Searching for casualties
- Overhaul Systems
- Pre Qualification of Residential or Industrial hazards
- See through dense smoke and in darkness
- Detect and display the relevant temperatures of objects and walls
- Moving swiftly in “Search and Rescue” of casualties
- Enhance Mission Effectiveness
- Maximize Operational Capability
- Improve Officer and Firefighter Safety
The human eye uses reflected light to visualize and produce an image. Daylight cameras, night-vision devices, and the human eye all work on the same basic principle. When light energy reflects off of an object, our eyes receive that signal and produce the appropriate image. In darkness, or in fog, or in smoke, we are limited to the external light provided. If there isn’t enough light or the artificial light is not sufficient, we no longer see clearly or see at all. When using night vision devices, the available light is magnified to produce an image. These devices have range limitations especially in extremely low-light conditions. It becomes difficult to view or recognize an object or produce any contrast for the image we would like to find. The thermal contrast between an object and its surroundings is what safety first responders are seeking.
Thermal imaging cameras measure the reflected thermal energy and are not susceptible or responsive to daylight or artificial light. First Responder Cameras indicate temperature variations usually by a display of sharp black and white contrast screen. By sensing this thermal energy and displaying it as black and white video, thermal imagers allow you to see things from farther away and with greater contrast than conventional visible-light cameras and night-vision technologies. As long as there is a temperature variation, within the resolution and sensitivity of the camera, the image will be displayed. The use of flashlights and high beam spotlights never finds a hidden human in the midst of smoke. The photo below, figure 3 is indicative of locating someone who is in trouble at the scene of a fire where the area is smoke filled. In this case, the rescue team finds the Thermal Imager to, literally, be a life saver.
Figures 3 and 4: Victims found thru smoke by Thermal Imagers
Features to Consider when choosing a thermal imaging camera for fire and first responder use
IR Resolution (Pixel Array)
- IR Resolution or Detector Pixel Size
- Ambient Operating Temperature
- Direct Temperature Measurement
- FOV - Field Of View
- Start Up Time
- Display Size & Replaceable Lens
- Single Hand Operation
- Ease of Use
- Refresh (Frame) Rate (Hz)
- Memory Recording Capability
- Standard Black / White Display or Special Color Alarm
- BatteryLife and Replacement
- Enclosure Ratings / Capability
- Drop Test Capability
- Connection and Output Capability
FOV - Field Of View
Detector resolution is based on the pixel array that each camera contains. Using larger pixel arrays, 640X480, (as well as the lens “Field of View” selected and any special electronics being added to the optical circuit), cameras can measure smaller targets at a longer distance that would be sharper and in greater detail. As the pixel array increase in size and the focal length is increased, changes in thermal visibility will be extended over a longer distance. Please see FOV, “Field of View” paragraph below. Given a fixed pixel array, the FOV will determine the detail of temperature being displayed.
The FOV or “Field of View” is the area of the image that is measured and viewed on the imager screen. The lens has the greatest influence on the total view, but a larger pixel array (matrix) may provide greater detail of desired temperature gradient. By choosing the appropriate lens with a specific pixel array, you are also determining the length of visual capability for the Imager.
Using the appropriate Thermal Imager designed to be used in the high temperature environment of firefighting allows for viewing of extremely high and low temperatures in one screen with clear definition. The units can also find casualties in the midst of high temperature conditions. Note the capture of temperature information in the two photos below and figure 4 above
Figures 8 and 9: First Responder Thermal Images with Temperature Information
There is no doubt that using Thermal Imaging for Rescue and Firefighting provides an increased opportunity for safety and success for all first responders. This tool allows any operator to have the ability to increase life and death circumstance to their benefit as well as added protection at their fingertips. Thermal Imaging cameras will assist in approaching fires more strategically, able to detect additional combustibles and find hotspots quicker. Using a Thermal Imager will absolutely allow responders to rescue victims sooner. For additional information, contact your TEquipment Certified Thermal Imaging Expert.
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