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New Port Richey Gets TICS

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  • New Port Richey Gets TICS

    Cameras focus on fire victims
    New thermal imaging cameras may help New Port Richey firefighters find victims in fires.
    By STEVE THOMPSON
    Published October 13, 2003

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    NEW PORT RICHEY - Handprints on a wall could be the clue that leads to someone trapped.

    The fleeting prints, which show up white, are evidence of heat from a hand that left them there.

    A warm body shows up even more clearly on the small monitor. It might be that of a victim unconscious on the floor.

    New Port Richey firefighters have trained with the city's newest piece of high-tech equipment, a thermal imaging camera. The hand-held device will allow them to look through smoke and darkness and see what is happening in a fire.

    The department bought the nearly $14,000 camera with money from a federal grant. The money allowed them to finally buy technology that many departments have been using for some time.

    "They're pretty popular now; they're almost standard," said John Thela, New Port Richey's assistant fire chief.

    Pasco County Fire Rescue got its first thermal imaging camera in July 2002. It recently bought two more.

    Wednesday evening, Thela taught several department volunteers to use the camera in a training room near the New Port Richey Recreation Center. The cameras have proved dangerous when used carelessly in other departments across the nation, he said.

    "Instead of using their regular search patterns through the house, guys are swinging the doors open and just running through the house looking," he said.

    As fire volunteers crawled into the pitch black training room with the camera, he cautioned them not to forget standard procedure. They were to keep contact with the wall to their right so they could follow it back out if the camera failed.

    "If you haven't used search patterns, maybe you can remember what hall you went down," he told them. "But nine times out of 10, you're (in trouble). We'll find you after the fire's out. Dead."

    The firefighters practiced using the camera to pick out features of dark rooms. Different materials in the rooms held varying amounts of heat. The resulting images showed up in black and white.

    The camera also can transmit what's on its screen to a receiver outside the structure from where an incident commander can watch.

    In addition to firefighting, the camera can be used in search and rescue, Thela said. The warm body of a child lost in dark woods would show up clearly among the trees.

    The federal grant that made the camera possible was awarded to the department last year.

    A $169,020 federal grant the department received last month will soon help it buy new breathing equipment.

    "If there's anything good to come out of Sept. 11," Thela said, "it's that the federal government started to release money to emergency services."
    09-11 .. 343 "All Gave Some..Some Gave ALL" God Bless..R.I.P.
    ------------------------------
    IACOJ Minister of Southern Comfort
    "Purple Hydrant" Recipient (3 Times)
    BMI Investigator
    ------------------------------
    The comments, opinions, and positions expressed here are mine. They are expressed respectfully, in the spirit of safety and progress. They do not reflect the opinions or positions of my employer or my department.

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