Vehicle-Mounted IR Adds Safety
Byline: Jim Houck, Correspondent
A growing number of fire departments are investing in roof-mounted infrared-camera systems to help them arrive at the scene of an emergency quickly and safely and to conduct more comprehensive field assessments. This system is an added safety feature that enables the driver to see five times farther than with standard headlights, particularly in dark, dimly lit or smoke-filled environments.
“It’s a valuable, extra tool,” says Pete Mikulak, chairman of the fire apparatus committee of the Honesdale (Pa.) Fire Department Hose Company #1. “The cameras act as an extra set of eyes, which enhance safety of personnel and the assessment of the incident or emergency.”
The vehicle-mounted thermal-imaging system can be supplemented with side- and rear-vision cameras to reduce blind spots when backing up or changing lanes. The LED-assisted cameras provide superior low-light performance and feature embedded microphones.
“The video cameras have really helped us with safely backing up and working around the apparatus, as well as packing hose,” Mikulak says. “We not only see more with the cameras, but we also can hear directions from firefighters. It’s a tremendous safety feature.”
As they approach the scene, emergency personnel can conduct a more thorough field assessment or size-up, quickly pinpointing the fire’s source, locating hydrants or taking note of other vehicles and fire-rescue workers on-site, regardless of visibility conditions. The XVision Night Vision System by Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems, for example, uses infrared technology to see 1,500 feet and beyond.
“On the first day the night-vision camera was installed, it was extremely useful in assessing hot, electrical wires that were down in trees,” Mikulak says. “It was a stormy, windy day, and we were able to quickly find the pole and wires without stepping outside of the truck. Our personnel worked safely inside the vehicle – that’s a key benefit.”
The added visibility range can help the driver react sooner to pending situations in front of the vehicle and maintain vehicle control. Since the camera senses heat and not light, it operates even on the darkest, unlit roads and can enable the operator to see through very smoky environments.
The thermal-imaging system can be supplemented with a pan-and-tilt thermal-imaging camera, which combines infrared technology with vertical and horizontal scanning. The user is able to easily and quickly scan a large area by operating a joystick to move the camera.
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