Mayday Monday: TIC Use

TIC use on the fireground and Gloucester (NJ) firefighter deaths

By Tony Carroll

This month’s edition comes about one week after this great country’s 241st Birthday. Hope everyone had a good Independence Day Celebration. Before we get to honoring those heroes who fought for our freedoms, let’s look at heroes who fought to save victims in a fire.

On July 4, 2002, a fire in Gloucester, New Jersey, took the lives of three firefighters and three trapped children. As firefighters ran into the building to rescue the trapped, the balloon-frame duplex was being destroyed by fire. The building collapsed 27 minutes into the rescue and firefighting operations. This tragedy has been remembered in several reports and videos. Find links to these reports HERE.

The New Jersey report on these line-of-duty deaths highlighted several lessons learned, and one of these emphasized the use of thermal imaging cameras (TICs). The first-arriving unit on this fire was equipped with a TIC but it was not immediately deployed. In addition, it is not known if TICs were used in the search for the trapped firefighters. This line in the report describes the objective of this month’s Mayday Monday:

“The TIC can help speed a RIT/FAST to the firefighter saving precious time in locating and removing the victim(s).”

One issue with TIC use is being able to interpret images seen on the camera. We know what a “victim” looks like in plain sight, but can you pick it out of the image. Remember, the white “victim” laying on the apparatus floor during a drill might not be white in the fire room.

Thermal imaging camera tips for firefighters

Here is a drill to help with image interpretation and scanning with the camera. It works best in a smoke-filled room but can work in a completely dark room. Place several objects (gloves, boots, helmets) around the room. Some in plain sight, some behind objects. Some high, some low. Don’t forget to place one behind the camera position. Members will enter room and locate objects. Emphasize using the reach of the camera (don’t need to touch every inch of space if can see with camera) and six sides to a box (left, right, front, back, up, and down). Thanks to Wichita (KS) Lt. Sam Hittle for the TIC training idea.

The TIC is a great tool and, like all of our tools, needs to be trained on. Please take time and review this month’s drill. Don’t forget to send in pictures of your crew performing the drill/skill. Send to mayday.monday@dc.gov. See you next month!

Tony Carroll is a captain with the safety office of the District of Columbia Fire & EMS Department.

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