Among the tools of the fire service, some of the most powerful are hand-held devices. These technologies provide information to firefighters than can direct their approaches to emergency situations and safe lives.

Today, more powerful devices are available in smaller, hand-held form, sometimes taking the place of much larger and more expensive devices. For example, previously the Los Angeles Fire Department carried just one large thermal imaging camera (TIC) that cost upwards of $10,000 on each fire engine.

Structure Damage Evaluation

Los Angeles is one of the municipal fire departments in the country to equip every on-duty firefighter with a hand-held TIC

A new, smartphone-sized TIC from Seek Thermal, Santa Barbara, Calif., costs just $750 and now offers each firefighter the ability to perform faster search and rescues, execute a self-rescue if needed and locate smoldering hot spots. Los Angeles is one of the largest municipal fire departments in the country to equip every on-duty firefighter with a hand-held TIC.

The purchase of a thousand TICs for the LAFD was made possible by the Los Angeles Fire Department Foundation through the support of individual donors and organizations such as the Wasserman Foundation and California Community Foundation.

Hand-held TICs are becoming more and more popular. FLIR has unveiled the K1 handheld TIC that is more affordable for first responder officers and fire investigators. At $599, the K1 detects heat and provides visibility through smoke and in total darkness to enhance situational awareness for use in wildland fire control, search and rescue missions, structure damage evaluation and investigative work.

The K1 is powered by the FLIR Lepton thermal microcamera and uses MSX technology
FLIR has unveiled the K1 handheld TIC that is affordable for first responder officers and fire investigators

Gas Leak Detector

The K1 is powered by the FLIR Lepton thermal microcamera and uses MSX technology, which extracts high-contrast details from the images taken by an onboard visible light camera and superimposes them onto the thermal images. It simultaneously captures thermal and visible images of a scene and stores up to 10,000 image sets to create post-scene reports, analysis and evidence. A pistol grip design allows firefighters to view a scene from their line-of-sight for improved safety and situational awareness. A spot thermometer easily identifies unseen hot and cold spots for instant troubleshooting.

New handheld devices in the fire service also include a gas leak detector and a combination device that is cloud-ready. The Ultra-Trac LZ-30 compact methane-specific leak detector from Sensit Technologies provides fast and accurate readings up to 100 feet away. The device uses TDLAS (tunable diode laser absorption spectroscopy) to provide instantaneous alerts to the presence of methane.

Potentially Dangerous Situations

Firefighters can conduct leak detection investigations themselves without the need for PPM detectors

Operating at a distance, the LZ-30 eliminates the need for firefighters to access the gas plume directly and keeps them safe from potentially dangerous situations. They don’t have to climb to elevated areas or access fenced-in property or climb to elevated areas. Firefighters can conduct leak detection investigations themselves without the need for specialized PPM detectors – no need to wait for gas engineers. A simple interface provides user-friendly operation of the ergonomically designed instrument.

Another wireless, handheld device includes thermal imaging, firefighter ranging, motion alarm and cloud technology with GPS. MSA Fire’s LUNAR is a small, wireless, cloud-ready device designed to provide higher levels of protection for firefighters through enhanced vision, improved situational awareness, and team connectivity. It is part of a suite of SMA products that, when used together provides a new platform for firefighter safety.

It can be used as a stand-alone device or as part of an MSA self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) system
MSA Fire’s LUNAR is a small, wireless, cloud-ready device designed to provide higher levels of protection for firefighters

Better Situational Awareness

It can be used as a stand-alone device or as part of an MSA self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) system. Thermal imaging increases visibility and improves situational awareness. Firefighter ranging combines direction and distance information to find separated teammates and decrease response time. A motion alarm sounds an alert if it does not detect a firefighter’s motion. Production of the device will begin in summer 2020.

The ability to provide better situational awareness to firefighters in the palm of their hands can go a long way toward keeping firefighters safer. For example, LAFD says the thousand new TICs are a significant technology purchase and a critical component to their ‘Everyone Goes Home’ initiative. We often marvel at the powers of modern technology, and clearly those powers include saving lives.

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Larry Anderson Editor, TheBigRedGuide.com, Notting Hill Media

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