r l N i x I recently had a conversation with a fire chief about how his department defines using a thermal imag- ing camera (TIC). This chief is very fortunate that his department owns a TIC for every firefighter. To
ensure that his firefighters would never be without a
TIC on a fire call, he added the use of a TIC to his
department’s standard operating procedures (SOPs).
The SOP requires that his firefighters grab their
TIC when they exit the apparatus. This conversation
made me think about the importance of including
the use of a TIC in your department’s SOPs. The
TIC is an often-overlooked tool when documenting
procedures for firefighters to follow.
Not many fire departments are fortunate enough to
have a TIC assigned to every firefighter. This is certainly not the norm in the fire service, although it’s a
dream many fire departments strive to achieve. Let’s
look at the most common deployment models currently in use in the fire service for thermal imaging.
• Your fire department doesn’t own a TIC. If this
is your department, then I’m sure the reason you
don’t own a TIC is budgetary. I recommend you
work with your town or city council to raise funds
to purchase a TIC. Or, another option to consider
is purchasing a refurbished TIC, which is less
expensive but a viable solution.
• Your fire department owns only one TIC.
Having one TIC is better than not having a TIC
at all. If this is you, you are most likely a small
volunteer department with budget constraints and
are probably using the TIC for overhaul and for
emergency search and rescue calls.
• Your fire department owns one TIC per station.
This means that most likely a TIC is present on
all fire calls. Having a TIC per station is certainly
better than the previous two models; however,
there may be times when the first apparatus to
arrive is not the one equipped with the TIC. This
can delay search and rescue efforts or lose the
benefits the TIC offers when looking for victims
trapped in the fire.
• Your fire department owns one TIC per appa-
ratus. This is a powerful use of thermal imaging
technology. These departments have made a seri-
ous commitment to using thermal imaging tech-
nology and value its benefits. This model ensures
that the TIC is always on the first apparatus to
arrive on the fire scene. In this deployment model,
the TIC is intended to be used during primary
search and all other fire operations. There is a
significant investment in this model.
• Your fire department owns one TIC per fire-
fighter (riding position). This is where we all
want to be—every firefighter clipping on a TIC to
turnout gear for every call, just like every firefighter
strapping on SCBA for every call. Not many
departments have adopted this deployment model
because it is just too costly. What if, however,
this deployment model became the norm for fire
departments across the nation? This means that
not only would we have the technology for search
and rescue at our fingertips, but we would also be
combating the issue of firefighter disorientation.
Whichever model you have will certainly influ-
ence how your firefighters use and implement
thermal imaging when responding to fire calls. We
know the use of a TIC helps to save lives because
it lets firefighters see what they once couldn’t see.
Regardless of the size of your department, a TIC is
a tool that needs to be in the hands of firefighters.
Manufacturers have made it more affordable to pur-
chase a TIC. For those departments that don’t have
a TIC, get one. For those departments that do have
a TIC, get more. If you have the funds to expand
your TIC arsenal, then you advance in the deploy-
ment models outlined in this column.
Owning just one TIC means having a deployment
strategy in place is necessary. It doesn’t matter if you
own one or 20, you must know who is responsible
for that TIC when entering a structure fire. Be sure
you can answer these questions: Is your TIC acces-
sible to your firefighters? Where is your TIC? How
did you decide where you would store your TIC?
Always know where your TIC is stored, who’s
taking it off the truck, and what role the TIC plays
in fighting fires. Owning a TIC is a significant
investment. It is up to you to be sure that you are
using this investment on every fire call. There is no
greater benefit than saving a life!
Carl Nix is a 32-year veteran of the fire service and a retired battalion chief of the Grapevine (TX) Fire Department. He serves as an
adjunct instructor for North Central Texas College and a thermal
imaging instructor for Bullard. Nix has a bachelor of science degree
in fire administration and is a guest instructor for Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service’s (TEEX) annual fire training in Texas.
What’s Your Deployment Model?
A TIC for every firefighter?