A fire is no place to be blind, but firefighters face that prospect every time they enter a smoke-filled building. Thermal imagers can improve the odds, but they're too often handheld and bulky, so Scott Safety has come up with the Scott Sight, a lightweight imaging system integrated into a breathing mask to provide individual firefighters with real-time thermal images.
In many ways, "firefighter" is a bit of a misnomer. According to the National Fire Protection Association, most fire deaths are actually due to smoke inhalation and the hazard that gives firefighters the most grief isn't flames, but the blindness caused by stumbling about in smoke while using respirators. In such a situation, rescuers can get lost, fall down stairs or through holes in the floor, or accidentally grab bare electrical wires.
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Since the 1990s, fire brigades have used thermal imagers to see through smoke to save thousands of lives and millions of dollars of property. These cameras use heat instead of visible light to penetrate smoke and not only allow firefighters to navigate burning buildings, but can also isolate hidden fires so firefighters can put them out without having to damage or destroy surrounding property.
Thermal imagers have become increasingly popular since the 9/11 attacks and improvements in technology have now reduced the size of the components. Simple imagers are now available for smartphones and military versions are supplementing individual soldiers' night vision and targeting systems.
However, thermal imagers still have their drawbacks. For one thing, they tend to be expensive and they need to be waterproof and rugged enough to stand up to field conditions. In addition, the more practical systems are handheld, which makes them difficult to use while juggling other equipment, and current helmet mounts tend to be bulky retrofits.
Making its debut this week at the FDIC International convention in Indianapolis, the Scott Sight is a full-face breathing mask that incorporates a real-time, lightweight imaging camera with the display screen inside the mask itself. The camera generates 150 x 120 resolution images at a rate of nine frames per second to the internal display. Scott says that the camera has an auto-dimming Infinity lens and the system has four-hour TVR (thermal video recording) capability, maximum or ambient temperature settings, four user interface choices, and a four-hour battery life.
The Scott Sight is a product of the company's Firefighter of the Future initiative. Begun in 2014, it's aimed at finding new ways of improving firefighter safety and situational awareness through collaborative discussions with firefighters. The system is certified to global IS standards and, according to Scott, EN/NFPA/NIOSH certifications are pending for Scott Sight as an accessory for the Scott Safety AV-3000 HT facepiece.
"Making thermal imaging accessible was a first step," says Kim Henry, director of growth initiatives for Scott Safety and the leader of the Firefighter of the Future team. "One of the key challenges we faced was to create an adjustable, sleek design that wouldn't interfere with the firefighter's personal protection equipment, field of view or scene hazards. Scott Sight addresses those challenges, while creating a platform that will expand to offer additional capabilities in the future."
The price of the Scott Sight mask has not yet been announced.
The video below introduces the device.
Source: Scott Safety