Request for a new project

Published:  07 December, 2009

At their October, 2009 Standard Council meeting, the Council reviewed a request for a new project on fire service training in thermal Imaging and voted to publish the request for public review and comment.

Anyone interested in commenting on this proposed project is invited to do so in writing. Please include information on resources on the subject matter, the names of those interested in participating on the Committee (if established), the names of other organizations actively involved with this subject, and whether there is a need for such a project. Responses should be sent to Codes and Standards Administration, NFPA, 1 Batterymarch Park, Quincy, MA 02169-7471, by January 4, 2010.

Fire Service Training in Thermal Imaging

a. Provide an explanation and any evidence of the need for the new project/document. In the near future, NFPA will be issuing a new standard, NFPA 1801, Standard on Thermal Imagers for the Fire Service. Currently there are no specific training standards in the fire service for thermal imaging.

Some manufacturers offer training programs for their specific devices. The programs vary widely in the level and quality of training. Private sector training companies also offer a range of training programs. The Law Enforcement Thermographers’ Association (LETA) is an internationally recognized training organization that sets standards for thermal imaging training for the law enforcement community.

NFPA is the internationally recognized leader in the development of standards and guides for the Fire Service. Therefore, NFPA should move forward with the development of a Thermal Imaging training standard that would provide for the three levels of training: basic, advanced and instructor.

Due to the lack of standardized training most users do not understand the basic principles of physics that enable the thermal imagers to “see through smoke”. As a result, the user cannot fully understand the capabilities and limitations of these life safety devices. This lack of training may result in ineffective and or inappropriate use, which could translate into reduced safety on the fire ground, reduced availability and increased maintenance costs for the thermal imagers.

Given that there are several thermal imaging technologies, it is important that the basics of all are addressed in the training, since a first responder may not always be using the device that is “typically on the rig”, especially in a large mutual aid response. Without appropriate training the benefits of thermal imaging technology may not be fully realized by the user. In some cases, the lack of understanding may actually place the user in hazardous situation to both themselves and other fire fighters operating at an emergency incident.

b. Identify intended users of the new document. Fire Training Officers, Emergency Responder Training Officers, and Private Sector Training Groups serving the Emergency Responder/Security Community.

c. Identify individuals, groups and organizations that should review and provide input on the need for the proposed new document; and provide contact information for these groups. In addition to the NFPA Technical Committee on Fire Service Training, the NFPA Technical Committee on Electronic Safety Equipment should be asked to review and provide input. The Technical Committee on Electronic Safety Equipment has representatives of thermal imager manufacturers, safety equipment associations, researchers and first responders. In addition, the Thermal Imager Working Group members could lend another degree of expertise and assistance to the Committee in developing the standard.

d. Identify individuals, groups and organizations that will be or could be affected, either directly or indirectly, by the proposed new document, and what benefit they will receive by having this new document available.

First Responders, especially fire fighters. With proper training, the users will derive the biggest benefit by enabling them to use the thermal imagers with increased effectiveness and reliability. In turn this should lead to increased safety on the fire ground for both fire fighters and civilians in need of rescue. Thermal Imager Manufacturers – with the users receiving a standardized training program, there will be less confusion about the thermal imagers’ capabilities and limitations, hence fewer complaints and a greater appreciation from the attributes of thermal imaging technology.

Fire Service Organizations will benefit with improved safety for their members. In addition they should realize reduced repair and maintenance costs to thermal imagers damaged from misuse.

Training Organizations, both public and private sector, will have to develop courses to cover the requirements of the new standard and implement new training programs.

The general public. As public safety organizations improve their capabilities with thermal imager technology, the public will also benefit.

e. Identify other related documents and projects on the subject both within NFPA and external to NFPA.


f. Identify the technical expertise and interest necessary to develop the document, and if the committee membership currently contains this expertise and interest.

The Technical Committee on Fire Service Training has the interest and the technical expertise with regard to developing and implementing standards for thermal imager training. At a minimum, a liaison with the 1800 TC would be useful to provide technical information specific to the thermal imagers.

g. Provide an estimate on the amount of time needed to develop the new document.

3 years

h. Comment on the availability of data and other information that exists or would be needed to substantiate the technical requirements and other provisions of the proposed new document.

The basic principles of thermal imaging are well understood and documented in the scientific literature. Unfortunately these have not been uniformly distilled into practical material for training fire service users. Significant research was conducted and referenced in the development of NFPA 1801, which could drawn from to develop training standards. Manufacturers would also be a source of information.

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