Fire Fighting in Canada

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Thermal imaging quick tips: Part 1

Insights and tips on thermal imaging training to better your knowledge and improve firefighter safety

February 23, 2021
By Manfred Kihn
Be sure to check the date on your TI batteries and remember to replace them every two years. Photo credit: Manfred Kihn

Welcome to my first article for Fire Fighting in Canada. I am extremely humbled to have been asked to be a contributor and offer my insights each month into thermal imaging training and firefighter safety. My objective is to share my knowledge of thermal imaging and team up with you to enhance firefighter training and safety.

In this first article, I’d like to share some thermal imaging quick tips that have worked well for me and I hope you find these to be useful for your fire department.

Tip 1: In today’s society we are inundated with so many devices that are battery operated, including your thermal imager (TI), but let’s not forget that batteries don’t last forever. Do the batteries on your TI have a date on them? If yes, then how old are they? A good rule to remember is to replace any battery that is more than two years old. Or, you be the judge as to how long your batteries last. Here’s a way to evaluate your batteries. When conducting your next truck check, take out your TI(s) and turn them on and place them on your seat. Now, finish your equipment checks, which should take 30 to 45 minutes and go back to your TI. Is it still on or is it off or perhaps it went into sleep mode as it wasn’t being used? If it is off, did you time your batteries? Did it run for only 15 to 20 minutes before shutting down? If that is the case, then you need to replace your batteries right away. If the TI manufacture states that the TI should give you a two-hour run time and you are not getting it, then change your batteries.

Tip 2: Cancer mitigation is at the forefront of the fire service and we need to be doing everything we can to keep ourselves and our equipment clean, such as laundering our PPE regularly, including our TIs. All TIs are tested to IP67, which is a submersion test of three feet underwater for 30 minutes. Here’s a scenario: Your TI is contaminated from the fire scene and you pop it into your vehicle mounted powerhouse charger and return to the station. You have now brought those contaminants into your fire apparatus and also into your charger. Wash the TI properly or rinse it off at the scene first and then place it into a compartment and return it to the station to properly clean. I like to use either Fantastik or Spray Nine products if you have them to help loosen off some of the dirt, soot, etc., and then use warm water and soap with a good sponge in a bucket of water to thoroughly clean your TI. If you have an external battery, remove it and wash underneath. Dry completely and test for operation before putting your TI back into service in the charger. 

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Tip 3: “My imager has whited out and I can’t see.” Wrong! Today’s TIs do not white-out but can have issues with condensation on both the display viewing lens and the front germanium lens that can give you the feeling of white-out. The rule of thumb is if you have to wipe your SCBA facepiece or open the bypass valve to clear your mask, then you should get into the habit of wiping the front and back lenses of your TI at the same time. This happens a lot in colder climates, such as what we experience in Canada. I call it “cold climate condensation”. The imager is sitting in the apparatus in a nice warm fire station and suddenly at 11:00 pm you roll out on a call and it is -30 C outside with a wind chill factor as you walk into that structure fire with humidity and moisture. Yup, your TI is going to “white-out” from condensation. Wipe your lenses.

These are just a few quick tips to think about when using a TI. Next edition we will look at a few more tips for TI training, responsibility and storage. Should you have any thermal imaging topics you would like to read about or have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me at the email address below. 

Until next time, stay safe and train often.


Manfred Kihn is a 19-year veteran of the fire service, having served as an ambulance officer, emergency services specialist, firefighter, captain, and fire chief. He has been a member of Bullard’s Emergency Responder team since 2005 and is the company’s fire training specialist for thermal imaging technology. He is certified through the Law Enforcement Thermographers’ Association (LETA) as a thermal imaging instructor and is a recipient of the Ontario Medal for Firefighters Bravery. If you have questions about thermal imaging, you can e-mail him at manfred_kihn@bullard.com.


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