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A profile of thermal imaging camera ownership in the United States Fire Service.

Proudfoot SL; Fahy RF
NOIRS 2003: Abstracts of the National Occupational Injury Research Symposium, October 28-30, 2003, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh, PA: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, 2003 Oct; :59
While structure fires have steadily decreased over 20 years, the rate of firefighter fatalities inside burning buildings has increased from 1.8 to 3 deaths per 100,000 fires. Most of these deaths occurred when firefighters became disoriented, were caught in a collapse, or were overtaken by rapid fire spread. Thermal imaging cameras (TICs) allow firefighters to "see" in obscured-vision conditions. TICs detect heat energy rather than light, translating heat signatures into recognizable images. Fire service-related applications include search-and-rescue, and locating hidden fire behind walls and ceilings. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) added a question to its Annual Fire Service Survey (FSS) in 2001 to get a nationwide count of TICs. Preliminary data from the survey were analyzed to determine characteristics of departments based on TIC ownership. Data from the United States Fire Administration's (USFA) Needs Assessment were also incorporated. With two-thirds of the FSS cycle completed, 23.9% of departments have answered the TIC question; of those, 35.5% have at least one TIC. Career fire departments own 49.9% of the TICs, while volunteers own 50.1 %. Career departments comprise 11.5% of all departments, while volunteers make up 88.5%. The USFA reports that while 24.4% of the nation's fire departments now own TICs, 43.9% have no plans to purchase a TIC. The remaining 31.7% plan to obtain TICs within five years. The data show an even distribution of TICs between career and volunteer departments; however, with the total number of career departments being a fraction of the number of volunteer departments, a much higher proportion of career departments own TICs. Career departments generally protect larger populations and respond to more structure fires. Additional applied research is needed regarding TIC utilization in the fire service, together with specification standards and standard operating procedures.
Fire-fighters; Fire-fighting; Fire-hazards; Traumatic-injuries; Occupational-hazards; Mortality-data; Mortality-rates; Fire-fighting-equipment; Safety-measures; Emergency-responders
Publication Date
Document Type
Abstract; Conference/Symposia Proceedings
Funding Type
Fiscal Year
NIOSH Division
Priority Area
Disease and Injury: Traumatic Injuries
Source Name
NOIRS 2003: Abstracts of the National Occupational Injury Research Symposium, October 28-30, 2003, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Page last reviewed: May 11, 2023
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division