Recently, we had a rash of structure fires in our Rescue/Fire dept. (95% vs 5%) Well during these rash-typical three in a row, we found some interesting things that only seem to happen on real fires.

One of the most important ones that I wanted to throw out there was the TIC performance. I was the first due engine company on a fire, where the fire was in the incipient/growth stage of the fire. The fire was upstairs and was a very dense smoke/ not alot of visible flame fire. I activated the TIC at the front door and made my way with my firefighter up the stairs, by the time we got to the top of the stairs and into the dense smoke, the TIC went dead. So we made the move to old school and found the deep seated fire, but a second crew came upstairs to back us up, and his TIC did the same thing.


Problem- morning checkouts- most firefighters, take the TIC out fo the charger, turn it on, maybe run it for a minute or so and then turn it off and put it back in the charger. #2 The TICS are about 7-8 years old, original batteries.


Department was reactive to situation- all the TICS were checked, only one last 10 minutes the rest 2-3 minutes.  All the batteries were replaced with new ones.


OK- So where is your department on this? What is the condition of your TICs?


Another issue- how well do most firefighters make the transition from technology to oldschool, when the technology fails? What happens when you rely on tech too much?

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TICs, like any other piece of equipment needs to be checked frequently and properly maintained. Just because they are on a trickle charge doesn't mean the charge will last.

We had TICs with a trickle charge and have found similar low activation life because the batteries died. With the rechargeable, we had to turn the TIC on and leave it on until the battery was all the way dead before recharging. Even this didn't solve the problem.

We now have regular disposable battery packs and check the level daily and if we will take a spare battery pack with us when we go in.
TIC's and all other tools with batteries need maintenance. We set up a schedule so that once a month 1 of the batteries was totally discharged and charged. Also we do not use a charging unit in the vehicle. We found that this was destroying batteries. This is due to the vehicle being plugged in and then being unplugged to go on a call. The charger would start charging every time the vehicle was plugged in.

Transition from technology to old school depends on training. When we teach TIC use we say do not depend totally on the TIC. The TIC is a tool that can help if it is working.
The TIC is checked daily in my department and is continually monitored. Our firefighters are taught the old school method first, followed by practical use of the TIC. Even at that level only the officers in the department are schooled and "trusted" to accureatly read what is found using the TIC.

I believe that we also change batteries once a year or so (I could be wrong) to ensure that a good battery is in place.

Not that it helps if you are 400 feet into a structure....but a lot of departments carry spare batteries in the apparatus carrying the TIC.
Ok, well this was more of a post to stimulate conversation, we identified the problem in my department, and corrected it.
The new generation coming on the fire departments, that rely alot on technology and there xbox 360.

This was a message that there are no short cuts. I have been in the fire service over 26 years now, moved from steel tanks, hip boots, riding the tail board, and you were a new guy (boot) for a little longer then 6 mos to year.

The fire service is being taken over by the x-box/youtube generation that truley dont care about quality of the job done, and everyone else is to blame and not them.

Some of them haven't figured out that there is no cheat codes, or you tube video that will make them a good firefighter over night. We the mentors- have a responsibilty to beat the message home, nothing replaces the basics, hard work and old school tactics and training when it comes to firefighting.
Technology is nice, but beat your paycheck that if you really need it, I mean really need it, the cloud will move over your scene, the full moon will come out, and mistress will show up.

Be Safe and Get them out and Train.
It is sometimes overlooked, bt battery conditioning is crucial. For volly depts. it is important to ru the camera at weekly rig check. This runs the battery an reduces risk of overcharging which decreases its life.
Get ready to have the same problem again. Batteries when turned on and used for a short time and then recharged or turned off and let sit will develop a memory over time it will kill your battery life, as in the problem you have now. You should occasionally turn your TIC on and let it run it's battery all the way down. OK OK this will involve some work someone will have to make sure it doesn't go into sleep mode continually. If you cycle your batteries in this manner you will find that they will actually last longer.

Your other option is to get a discharger which drains the battery and kills off the memory that the battery builds up, but that costs money.
I agree with your train of thought that a lot of probies coming into the service today are trained on the newer technology and not so much the old tried-and-true ways to fight fires like using the senses and old fashioned experience to tell where the fire is. Too many rely on machinery and technology today. What happened to looking for the signs of hidden fire? Like bubbling paint, discoloration in the wall coverings, heat on the surface, crackling noises from the walls??? It wont hurt to put a few inspection holes through the wallboard either, not like the owners arent going to replace it anyway, IF its a save.

I agree that TIC's are usefull for finding the hidden fire but its not fullproof. You need to know more than one way to do anything in the fire service and not rely on any one technique or tool. Take roof ops for example. How many of you have done or seen this done to others where you get to the roof with the vent saw and start the cut...only to have the saw die. After trying to start it again it fails to start. What do most firefighters do in this situation? Call for another saw? Or have the irons with you as a back up already and start hacking with the axe? Most times I have the axe with me for this, it always starts, never runs out of gas, wont kick back on you and is lighter to carry up the ladder.

Everyone needs to think outside the box and practice more than one way to do things, so you are ready in the event the original plan fails. Good topic brother.
Like all of our battery operated equipment we monitor the performance and replace as needed. Honestly with any battery it's about all you can do.

As for the transition from technology to old school, we train for that. We mix up training from allowing TICs to be used for the entire exercise to not allowing the TIC and relying on traditional methods to starting off with the TIC and simulating an experience like the one you mentioned where it quits during the incident.
I'm nothing approaching an expert (or even knowledgeable) on batteries, so instead, I research and look for what seems to me the best answers.

lithium-ion battery
# Does not need prolonged priming when new. One regular charge is all that's needed.
# Relatively low self-discharge - self-discharge is less than half that of nickel-based batteries.
# Low Maintenance - no periodic discharge is needed; there is no memory.

nickel-metal hydride
High maintenance - nickel-metal hydride requires regular full discharge to prevent crystalline formation. nickel-cadmium should be exercised once a month, nickel-metal-hydride once in every 3 months.

In short, the only recommendation I would make is that you determine the type of battery your device uses and then go by what the device or battery manufacturer RECOMMENDS. They ARE the ones that are warrantying their own device.

One final thought: I would, or would not, fully discharge or overcharge a battery unless the MANUFACTURER recommends it. Taking the advice of people who *think* they know best for your equipment only means YOU will end up having to pay for their *advice*.
We had this same issue. Thermal imager batteries carry NiCad or NMHD batteries that only have a life of 2-3 years @80% and never operate at more then 80% capacity. Over time that capacity lowers to less then 5%. Since our incident we change batteries every 2 years. I am exploring with our bullard (10 years old now) to see if we can change the chargers to impress chargers with impress batteries, which will give us the longevity.

We train every scott class, SAR, RIT, Fire attack etc. old school. No matter if your 25 years, or 25 days. When doing interior training, we will allow some TIC use, but hands or feet stay on walls, or hose lines no matter what. There is a specific class devoted to TIC each year here. Every call that involves fire or SAR, the imager is put to use, but the guys must keep mental notes of where they are, locations of doors, windows etc while they search. I believe it all comes down to train, train , train, once things are put into a members prime decision making side of the brain, or he/she has a brush with reality, they wont forget it and it will be automatic. Maybe have the tech kids begin a trainging SAR, in a umfamiliar area, with the TIC, then shut it off or take it away from them half way through and tell them to find the way out, if they do then pat them on the back, if not, maybe a couple weeks of esential training again is in order.
Is your TIC vehicle charger tied into the shoreline or the onboard electrical system. Eveytime you start a truck the charger is cycled (power interruption) and the batteries have a max number of charges in an expected life cycle.

Putting the chargers back on the house power / bench top, will reduce the number of unecessary charging cycles. Your batteries will last longer.

Training purposes wise, I will always take away a TIC and tell the crew that they just had a TIC failure during a training evolution, just to see if they can return to old school.

Lately though, because most rely heavily on what they can "see" that most have not remained old school enough before the failure happened to easily pickup where the TIC left off.

Old school fundamentals are usually tried and true. New technology is just and open for imperfections and flaws. Although thermal imagery is not brand new, we in the Fire Service are still trying to work out the bugs and implement this new tool into our operations. the TIC is a wonderful tool to assist us in the Fire Srevice but should never be solely relied upon.
I have heard stories of interior crews falling down stairs and into holes in the floor because they were crawling with the TIC up to their face and trying to use it for a continous set of eyes instead of the occasional glance and scan of a room, hallway, etc...

The bigger issue is that the newer members entering the Fire Service now are only accustomed to new technology and the older dogs are slowing leaving us and taking their knowledge and experience with them. I am a firm believer and supporter of "Back to Basics" training in the Fire Service.

We owe it to those who came before us and those who are to come after us to ensure that our members are fundamentally sound and able to fall back on these fundamentals when the TIC goes dead, the saw does not start, or the computer does not show us a preplan of the building en route.

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