December 29, 2005

Fire Department Receives New Thermal Imager

Imagine being blind folded and trying to navigate through a home or office for the first time. To make things even more challenging, strap on about 50 pounds of extra weight and fill the house with smoke as you crawl around on hands and knees trying to navigate the course blindly.

Until a few years ago, that is exactly what local firemen had to do when they entered a burning building. Today, most emergency service workers are armed with thermal imagery devices.

The Scotland County Fire Department was at the forefront of such a movement when it bought its first thermal imager nine years ago. Thanks to a recent grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the department will continue to be at the leading edge of technology. FEMA awarded the local department a grant in excess of $15,000 for the purchase of a new T1 Commander Thermal Imager produced by Bullard.

This machine uses technology perfected by NASA, said fireman Roger Gosney. Its basically just bigger, and better than our old one, meaning we will be able to take advantage of the improvements to do our job even better.

Gosney traveled to Washingtopn D.C. in October of 2005 to receive training on the new device as part of the grant process. Former Scotland County Emergency Management Director Teresa Lee was responsible for the grant.

The machine arrived in Memphis in November and has been utilized in training but has yet to be put to the test in a real situation.

The imager offers improved sensory, meaning it will detect heat sources more accurately than the original imagers from a decade ago. In addition, the new T1 offers expanded coverage, detecting heat from as far away as 900-feet when used in searches and other types of situations. The machine offers an image zoom option that doubles the magnification and also can be used to record up to 24 digital images for training purposes or arson investigations.

The new imager also has improved battery controls that will allow the device to run longer on the existing power sources. The casing has undergone strengthening changes that will insure longer life for the hand-held machine.

This imager has a few obvious improvements as well, Gosney stated. The pistol grip makes it easier for a fireman to manage, and the view screen is roughly twice as big as the old one, making it easier to see.

While the T1 obviously is an upgrade, the fire department has no plans to take the first imager out of service.

The old imager is still more than adequate so we plan to keep it in service, Gosney said. Now we will be able to attack fires with two hose teams, both with thermal imagers, which will help them to get directly to the source of the fire more

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