FDNY recently placed a search camera on Rescue Co. 3’s collapse apparatus. The mobile search camera, easily operated by one firefighter, is a highly technical system designed to locate trapped victims in building-collapse situations. The search system combines a miniature video camera with a sensitive microphone, allowing rescuers to examine, and listen for trapped victims in, collapse voids—even if the void access is too small for firefighters to physically penetrate.

The system consists of three main items—the search probe, the chest monitor, and the component pack. The search probe consists of a telescoping pole with the camera housing and control handle attached on opposite ends. The telescoping pole, consisting of four sections, can collapse to a length of 32 inches and can be extended beyond seven feet. The dustproof and water-resistant camera housing contains the camera, the microphone, the light, and the speaker element and is connected to the probe by a two-way articulating joint. This construction allows the camera housing to rotate more than 180 degrees to the right or left and is remotely controlled from the probe’s handle. The light and audio systems also are digitally controlled by switches on the handle. The telescoping search probe allows the search team firefighter to insert the camera head through void holes as small as two inches in diameter. The search team firefighter looks for any visible signs of trapped victims on the chest-mounted video monitor and listens through the headphones. The integrated two-way communication system allows the rescue firefighter to talk directly with any possible victims.

A high-resolution video camera and monitor comprise the video system. Light is provided by a variable intensity lamp system, which allows the video system to operate in areas of total darkness. The camera’s most effective viewing distance is from six inches to 20 feet. The chest-mounted monitor features a black and white screen measuring seven inches diagonally. It enables the search team firefighters to easily determine what is happening by manipulating the probe. The monitor is enclosed in a pouch equipped with quick-release buckles that are attached to the component pack harness.

The audio system consists of a sensitive microphone with an amplifier. The firefighter operating the tool can wear headphones with a boom microphone attached to them. A speaker element is attached to the camera housing at the end of the probe, enabling two-way communication with survivors to take place.

The component pack contains a sealed lead acid batter)’, good for four hours of continuous use, along with the unit’s electrical subsystems. It is housed in a harness worn on the back and is equipped with shoulder and waist straps. For ease of operation, the chest monitor is attached to this harness and is fully adjustable.

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