USFA, NIST complete thermal imaging technology study

The United States Fire Administration (USFA) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have completed a report, Technical Note 1499, Performance Metrics for Fire Fighting Thermal Imaging Cameras - Small- and Full-Scale ExperimentsM (PDF, 2.5 Mb). This report provides information on the research conducted as part of a project partnership on Thermal Imaging Camera (TIC) imaging performance metrics and test methods. The overall objective of the report is to provide science-based information to national standards developing organizations, including the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in support of NFPA 1801, Standard on Thermal Imagers for the Fire Service.

This study was conducted with support of the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate. The report describes performance metrics on TIC image contrast, effective temperature range, resolution, and image and thermal sensitivity.

"Each year fires in structures trap firefighters resulting in their injury and sometimes, death," said U.S. Fire Administrator Greg Cade. "This research partnership has developed critical information to support the development of a national standard on Thermal Imaging Technology that previously did not exist which will enhance the safety of our nation's firefighters."

NIST and USFA conducted research on the performance of thermal imaging systems to enhance firefighter safety in operational situations. Current thermal imaging technology was assessed by investigating a variety of commercially available thermal imaging cameras in the laboratory as well as in full-scale burns. The research also explored new technology that might enhance performance of future thermal imaging devices and worked to incorporate new technology into enhanced infrared cameras. Issues such as differential resolution, thermal exposure, performance during suppression, and ease of use were also examined. This project complemented existing NIST funded research on the development of a standard on thermal imaging technology.

"This study examined the capabilities and limitations of such thermal imaging technology and may lead to improved evaluation, standards, training, and understanding by local fire and emergency services departments," said NIST researcher Nelson Bryner. "NIST was pleased to work with USFA in this effort to provide science-based information to national level standards developing organizations on this life saving technology for the fire service and the public they protect."

Another technical report documenting the needs of the fire service community, Thermal Imaging Research Needs for First Responders: Workshop Proceedings, was previously published as part of this study.

These reports are available for download, free of charge, from the both the USFA and NIST Web sites.

Further information about this partnership effort may be found under the Research section of the USFA Web site at www.usfa.dhs.gov/fireservice/research/safety/nist3.shtm.

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