Firefighters Use Thermal Image Technology to Save Lives

By: Estephany Escobar Email
By: Estephany Escobar Email

HARRISONBURG -- Infrared technology helped law enforcement find the second suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings. These type of cameras are widely used among first responders, including a group right here in the Valley.

The Harrisonburg Fire Department has similar technology to that used in Boston.

Firefighter Larry Bennington said crew members use it to look for victims and pets. The camera works by picking up heat from objects or people. This technology can cut search time almost in half.

“It makes it quicker. We can go to one room, scan the camera and if somebody's laying there, it may be able to pick up a lot easier instead of going to that room and searching all over,” said Bennington.

It also helps firefighters find hidden fires. A wall can get warmer than other objects. The camera shows the temperatures of the objects and the room on the screen.

“The body or any object that's picking up heat, will pick a lot quicker than what we can see.”

It can also warn firefighters when the room is close to bursting into flames.

“As far as safety goes, we can actually see the burning layers of a burning room, burning building and if it starts to get to the point that it may flash, we know that we need to get out or change our tactics."

He said the camera is a big help, but firefighters still use time-tested tactics.

“Crawling through the dark and feeling and everything like that because we can't base everything on our thermal imaging cameras because it is technology and technology may fail.”

Bennington said the camera also helps when firefighters are searching for victims in a wreck.

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