Thermal imaging technology uses infrared radiation to represent the temperature of a certain object. Cameras equipped with this tech use color gradations to show the intensity of heat an object is emitting. Usually, objects releasing heat that falls within the normal temperature range are showed in grayscale, while those that exceed the limits are displayed in more pronounced colors.
Handheld cameras require someone to operate it on the scene, meaning one less hand to put out the fire and to save trapped people inside heavily damaged buildings. The camera’s capabilities are undoubtedly crucial during emergency situations, allowing firefighters to see even through smoke, dark areas, and even through heat-permeable walls. In these life or death situations, any help our firefighters can get means a lot.
These cameras are made up of several sensors and display components, all encased in a heat-resistant and waterproof housing. Having all of these features in a single, handheld camera, it’s expected the price for this piece of equipment to be high. However, their importance in firefighting situations outweighs its price tag.
Several manufacturers took up the challenge and integrated a thermal imaging camera into the fireman’s helmet and mask. This eliminates the need for an extra equipment to be brought in dangerous situations. It allows firefighters to use both hands and do what’s necessary for the situation which, in my opinion, is definitely not holding a camera.
The camera’s sensors are attached to the helmet and a small screen displays the thermal readings in real-time through the fiberglass mask, similar to what Google Glass does. This ensures firefighters get fast, accurate, and comprehensive readings of the situation without obstructing their actual view. A small battery pack powers the helmet which can last for hours. These features can help a lot in quickly planning their next course of action.
Its current price, however, remains an obstacle since it is still quite high for stations to be able to provide one to each of their firemen. But there’s still hope as manufacturers continue to find ways to ram the price down and make it more economical while enhancing its current features at the same time.
This innovation in the firefighting business continues to save more lives of both civilians and firemen as well. With our pace in technological development, it’s not a long shot to see improvements we only witness in sci-fi movies. Battery life can still be improved and displays could be bigger and more comprehensive. Something similar to Iron Man’s suit where readings and scans are shown directly on the mask itself seems plausible.
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