At our monthly business meeting the body had pointed out to the equipment committee that they would like to see us purchase a tic. I would like some input on the different types out there, and how well they are working after being in service for a while. What is the best out there for the money? We are not sold on any particular make or model as of yet, but I would appreciate any input.
We have a MSA, a local Native Tribe bought it for us. Recently the thing quit working, and we sent it in to have it repaired, and it was going to cost just about the same price to replace it. Apparently the government regulates thermal imaging hardware, and TIC manufactures cannot repair the internals of the camera, they just replace it. Anyway we harldy use it (we average 20-30 runs a year) and since somebody else bought it for us we felt we should repair it. We sent a letter to MSA regarding that the camera is about five years old, but it has only been used maybe a dozen times(this is the real problem, nobody except a couple of guys will ever use it). In the end MSA repaired the camera free of charge and I was very impressed with the customer service.
I've only had experience with Bullard, MSA, and old school Scott, No Drager. Is someone hooking you guys up with a grant or a freebie or something? Personally I like the Bullard, the old T3 and the newer T4 widescreen. For such a little camera they are pretty robust.
Bullard T4. It does what we want it to do. We like the way you can 'throttle' the colour display to have colour changes come in where it's most suitable for the operator, ie for fire have the colours show at high temperatures, for other searches have the threshold set low.
Remember that a TIC has more uses than searching for victims in a structure fire. Thdy can help with assessing structural stability both on arrival and during overhaul. They are useful for hot-spot identification at wildfires. They are useful when searching for people who are lost, ie old people who may have become disoriented and walked off into fields or forests. The T4's zoom is very good for this last use.
One thing I wish is that we'd looked at cameras made in places other than the USA. Not the there's anything wrong with them but it's just so damned hard to get the export approval from Homeland Security over there! And that approval purchase extends to any extras you may want afterwards too.
We use Bullard....it is hardy, has good dependability and it is easy to learn......But there are plenty of units out there...Contact area reps and see what they can or are willing to do for you.....Take note of support AFTER the sale.....just in case you have a problem....Stay safe....Paul
Adams Fire Equip. (our current supplier) is running a special on the Drager units and it seems that this is the one the equipment committee is looking to recommend. I would like to get some outside info on the Drager units from someone other than the salesman, because of course he is going to tell us his is the best.
No grant on this we are just looking to make an equipment purchase to better ourselves.
My Company has the bullard t4. Not a bad unit in my opinion. One bit of advice i will give you is this......DO NOT put it in service until you can train your members on its proper use. This tool can and will hurt your members if they are not trained properly. Infact, most depts and firefighters are not trained properly on its use.
Tips for Purchasing a New Thermal Imaging Camera
By: FETC Services - All Rights Reserved
The research and purchase of a thermal imager is not a simple task and is definitely one that should not be taxed upon a single person within your fire department. Whether purchasing a camera through an acquired grant, hard earned fundraiser money or taxpayer's cash from the capital improvement program, the costs associated with this purchase justifies creating a small TIC committee. The committee should steer the process of research, contacting manufacturer representatives and scheduling camera demos for hands-on evaluation.
I would also recommend acquiring as much literature as possible on each brand, assigning a committee member to research each product thoroughly before contacting the manufacturer representative. It means once a product demo has been scheduled, the committee will be educated on that specific product and can maximize the demo time with the representative. Once the demonstration is completed, always inquire if the demo camera can be left, so your membership can further review and evaluate the product without time constraints.
The committee as a whole should have basic knowledge of how a thermal imager works and understand the different technologies available to us from the industry. Not all TICs are designed the same. For instance, your committee should understand that infrared energy seen by a thermal camera will be focused onto a focal plane array (FPA). The electronics that are connected to the FPA will create what some fire service instructors describe as "the engine." This engine senses energy, calculates the relative differences between objects and then prepares that data for your eyes to view on the display screen.
There are three common types of engine technology used in fire service thermal imagers, the first being BST (Barium Strontium Titanate) technology. BST technology is the most common and is known for its past performance within the fire service. The next is VOx (Vanadium Oxide) technology, which is just one type of microbolometer. VOx microbolometers are now very popular in the fire service for their good quality image. The newest technology afforded to us is amorphous silicon (aSi), which is also another type of microbolometer and is well known for its compact size and relatively low cost to the end user.
Remember, with each of these different types of technologies you may find advantages to your specific organizational needs as well as a wide difference in the costs associated with each internal technology.
When charging a TIC committee to evaluate the potential purchase of a new camera, I suggest they focus on 10 key features to create a solid product evaluation. In my experience, firefighters may at times get hooked on the latest “bells and whistles” that a manufacturer has recently developed. While these can be nice to have, they may be seldom used in the field. Keep the committee focused on buying the right product for your department's specific needs by concentrating on:
Besides the purchasing of the camera itself, there's another important aspect to consider – training your firefighters how to actually use it. Let's think about opening our mindset to not only focus on how many of these cameras we can purchase for X amount of money. The thermal imager is only one tool in the firefighter’s toolbox and we all know this can only be an advantage if the end user is fully trained and understands its capabilities and/or limitations.
There is so much more to know about the camera beyond the manufacturer’s in-service training. Firefighters deserve real-world image interpretation and a quality sequence for safe operational use, none of which can be completed in just the training room or in the chief's office.
I would personally give up purchasing an additional camera in a multi-camera package in lieu of acquiring department-wide training from a professional company specializing in thermal imagers. Remember when a problem arises and a life is on the line, it will be the fully trained and mentally prepared firefighter who will efficiently locate victims faster by being able to properly utilize the thermal imager.
Mr. Greenwood is a Pro-Board Certified NFPA 1041 Instructor-III, NFPA 1021 Fire Officer-II, NH Certified Firefighter-III, Rapid Intervention Team Instructor, NFPA 1003 & FAA Airport Rescue Firefighter, NREMT-Intermediate and EMT-I/C. He is a 16-year veteran of the fire service with experience in various volunteer, paid-call, and career fire departments throughout New Hampshire. He is currently working as a career lieutenant with the Keene, NH, Fire Department and is the Assistant Fire Chief of Training for the Manchester-Boston Regional Airport Fire Department. Mr. Greenwood also owns an advanced firefighter training and leadership company, called FETC Services. www.fetcservices.com
TICs are a great tool to the fire service, and should not be the sole source of identifying hot spots, you still need to consider all the senses you were taught during rookie school. The MSA is what we use, realitivley cost effective considering some of the other prices for TIC's. Learn the capabilities of your TIC and remember that it's a tool. Something to think about , Tony was discussing some of it's uses. We use the TIC for night time tornado warnings. Everything gives off heat, even cloud formations. Take your TIC out during a thunderstorm and look at the sky, you will see where it could come in handy. Keep in mind, it will also pick up different thermal layers from the ground up on cooler nights.