Deploying Today’s Thermal Imagers

Apr 19, 2018

As thermal imagers have become more affordable for the fire service, the deployment of imagers has evolved. While the technology was often limited to one thermal imager per station or department, it’s now realistic for departments to have one TI for each apparatus or even multiple TIs per apparatus.

Popular Deployment Strategies

There are four common deployment strategies for thermal imagers:

  • One TI for the entire department
  • One TI for each station
  • TIs for special units (Search and Rescue, etc.)
  • One TI for each apparatus
  • Multiple TIs on an apparatus

Many departments will either use one or more of the strategies listed above, depending on budget and department needs.

Five Questions to Ask

There are five important items to consider when implementing a deployment strategy.

  1. Should our department’s TIs be standardized?

    Some departments standardize their thermal imagers by brand or by model. The benefits of standardization can include easier maintenance and quicker training.

  2. Is camera and battery maintenance handled centrally or per station?

    Much of this decision is influenced by the size and capability of the department. Camera maintenance can include software updates and upgrades, replacement of some eld-replaceable items such as displays or glare shields, cleaning, and equipment inspection.

  3. Should I continue to use my current thermal imagers or look for upgrade options?

    The best thermal imagers will be durable and offer a long service life. However, there may be instances where it’s beneficial for a department to take advantage of a trade-in or upgrade promotion, even when the unit is still in service. One important note: because performance and quality can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, it’s still vital to make sure promotional opportunities don’t keep your department from selecting the right thermal imager for your needs.

  4. What features do I need for each deployment location and use?

    The features and benefits of thermal imaging can vary drastically from model to model. Some models are designed to be small, lightweight, and simple to use when in the middle of a fire scene. Other models are more sophisticated and offer various diagnostic features, such as temperature colorization and hot spot pinpointing. Features used for recording and size-up may be better suited for cameras to be deployed in a different manner than smaller, more basic models designed to be clipped to turnout gear and worn by several firefighters inside a scene.

  5. How frequently should we reevaluate our deployment strategy?

    Like any technology product, thermal imagers are advancing and evolving on a regular basis. That’s why regular evaluation of a departments’ thermal imaging needs, as well as reevaluation of available technology and products is essential. The frequency of reevaluation may vary per department. However, a good practice is to designate a few individuals within the department to stay abreast of the changing technology, updating key personnel as the technology advances. This responsibility may lie in the training department or another key area. A more formal reevaluation of the deployment strategy may happen every few years or as the department grows or changes.