How Next-Gen Thermal Imaging
Can Help Keep Firefighters Safe
Advancements in thermal imaging cameras gives firefighters an increased ability see in the dark,
through thick smoke, and from multiple viewpoints.
Thermal Imaging Cameras (TICs) are proven lifesavers for fire crews with an established track record in all
phases of fire size-up, attack and, overhaul.
Not only can they help firefighters find their
way through thick smoke in unfamiliar
surroundings, TICs can also help crews
determine the center of fire activity, locate
victims and other firefighters, and spot
potential hazards not seen by the naked
eye. But more than that, because TICs
show minute differences in heat energy,
they’re vital for search and rescue, hazmat
operations, and many other operational
specialties beyond the standard fire ground.
Unfortunately, for years this technology
was too expensive for fire departments to
afford more than one per station or apparatus.
Departments often continue to use out-of-date models because replacing their current
TICs is not within budget. The end result is
that few firefighters can get their hands on a
TIC during an emergency response.
Recent technological developments could
change all that, however. Today’s TICs are
smaller, cost less, have higher performance,
and come in a variety of configurations that
can give incident commanders an entirely
new view of the scene – from inside, outside,
and even above the fire.
Seeing is believing
The primary benefit of any TIC is, of
course, its ability to let the firefighter see in
the dark, and through thick smoke. We often
take the simple reality of sight for granted,
until it’s taken from us in a life-threatening
situation. Being able to see in the dark and
through smoke isn’t a luxury for firefighters,
it’s a vital necessity.
The new generation of low-cost TICs are
so flexible and affordable they can be carried
by individual firefighters, mounted on aerial
apparatus, and even flown on drones.
Attacking a fire safely and efficiently
involves more than just seeing through
smoke, it implies being able to give the
incident commander as many different
viewing angles as necessary to direct
resources most effectively. The more
information the IC has, the better off the
entire team is.
New technology, new possibilities
By creating lower cost cameras
and improving the base technology,
manufacturers have been able to provide a
greater variety of TICs that operate from
multiple viewpoints. Each model is tailored
to solve a different problem.
For example, the FLIR K2 was developed
to be affordable enough to put in the hands
of every firefighter. At the same time, this
camera has the same high quality and
rugged durability as its higher-end models.
The K2’s resolution is good enough for
the user to immediately identify hot spots,
navigate through the smoke, and find
victims quickly. The K2 can also measure
temperature from a distance, allowing
firefighters to monitor the changing heat of
a structure to determine if it is cooling down
More advanced cameras can provide
greater resolution and more details from