Considering a Situational Awareness Thermal Imaging Camera? Read and watch this first!
The following resource document summarizes over 1,000 hours of live fire testing and evaluation of the current models available to firefighters.
We recommend that any organization that is interested in purchasing one of these devices shall test these devices in a live fire prior to purchase. Please let us know if you have any questions.Currently there are seven different situational awareness TICs on the market. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. We have not ranked them but graded them on their specifications and criteria so that the end user can make an informed decision based on data, performance, and not a sales pitch.
MSA LUNAR: This model is quite different than the other models available. It offers 206 x 156 (32,136 pixels) resolution and offers many other features not available on situational awareness TIC’s. It the following features: edge detection for enhanced situational awareness, standard infrared (up to 23 selectable color palettes), FAST search technology through their Fire Grid software system. This model is very durable and syncs to the MSA G1 SCBA that allows for tracking of the firefighter and their air consumption/available air. The edge detection works well in low temperature and high moisture environments but is not recommended for high heat environments as it overwhelms the firefighter with too much detail.
Please see the following videos on our YouTube channel for examples of the testing we conducted with this device:
* Edge Detection Demonstration:
* LUNAR High Heat Demonstration
* LUNAR Refresh Rate Demonstration:
FLIR K1: FLIR K1 is not originally designed for interior fire use but is an excellent tool for exterior, investigations, and for fire inspectors. It is the only radiometric TIC on the market meaning that it stores images with radiometric data. This means that every pixel is a temperature measurement and could be valuable evidence for investigators in court. The K1 is low cost option but is not intended to replace a decision making TIC. It’s resolution (160×120 which equates to 19,200 pixels) is very low but it is equipped with a feature known as MSX. This is a feature where it overlays the digital image and the thermal image into one picture.
Remember! the digital image is lost in zero visibility environments due to an absence of light. However, it is also equipped with a 300 lumen flashlight. The Field of View is Excellent of the K1 is excellent! The Color Palette is excellent as it follows TI Basic and all the FLIR KXX series cameras (engages at approximately 300 degrees).
The refresh rate is almost 9 hertz and is very SLOW! However, you can go into FLIR tools and lock it in Low Sensitivity so it does not lag so terribly when it sees high heat. This comes at a cost to the end user as it loses detail in the lower temperature regions. I have burned with it extensively and was fortunate to do test burns with it before it hit the market.
FLIR K2: The K2 is low cost option. The resolution is low but it has MSX to improve image quality in environments with visible light. The battery life on both K1 & K2 are excellent. The Color Palette is excellent as it follows TI Basic. This is same as all KXX Series TICs and engages color at approximately 300 degrees. The refresh rate is 9 Hertz which is very poor. it is very slow to respond and has a significant delay when switching from high to low sensitivity. However, with FLIR Tools, the end user can disable High Sensitivity reduce the lag/delay in these two TICs.
We have attached an article that features more information and video on this topic if your organization has purchased the FLIR K2:
Understanding the FLIR K2:
FLIR K2 Modification(s) article:
FLIR K2 refresh rate information:
Seek Fire Pro X: This is a low cost option situational awareness TIC. The Resolution is the highest on the market for any situational awareness TIC at 320×240 which is 76,800 pixels. The Field of View is very narrow at 24×32 which is the smallest field of view on the market. The Battery life is on this device is excellent.
The color palette is excellent and is similar to TI Basic and engages at 300 degrees. The refresh rate is 15 hertz which is good but not great. The Fire PRO X does better than its 9 hertz competitors due to a concept it uses known as Mixed Gain Mode. Each pixel switches individually instead of the entire field of view of pixels switching from high to low sensitivity. This provides a better image with very little delay or lag.
The downside of the Seek Fire Pro is that is not as well insulated as its competitors, the buttons are too small to operate with a gloved hand, and it also takes some getting used to in regard to its orientation.
The advantage that this device has over the other models is its ease of use during May-Day or RIC procedures. Due to its lens, the Fire PRO X can focus in on objects as close as 12″ away. No other model on the market can focus clearly on a object closer than 3′ away.
We have included several video resources and a full evaluation we completed on the Seek Fire PRO X for your reference:
Seek Fire Pro X Evaluation:
Seek Fire Pro X-Understanding Mixed Gain Mode:
The Seek Fire Pro X and Rapid Intervention:
MMTIC and SCBA Integrated TICs: A word of caution regarding these devices. Any TIC that is integrated into an SCBA will eventually have to be upgraded. How often do fire departments replace their SCBAs? Will the manufacturer still offer parts and support for this product in 10 years? These are questions that need to be answered prior to purchasing an SCBA integrated TIC.
MSA G1 ITIC: The resolution is on this device is good (240×180) but it has a very small screen with a short hose that is difficult to scan the environment with. The picture clarity in white hot color palette is very clear when compared to other models.
The field of view is of this device is very narrow (25×35) only slightly larger than the Seek Fire PRO X. The majority of the color palettes are designed for Thermography use which are low temperature and low contrast environments and not for firefighting. It is recommended to use white hot color palette only as not to confuse firefighters or lose orientation. MSA does not publish the color/temperature colorizations of any of these color palettes. Therefore, this leaves the firefighter without valuable information on how to use any of these colors to judge overall severity of heat. This detector for the MSA ITIC is made by Seek Thermal. This situational awareness has the best refresh rate on the market at 30 hertz. This is extremely valuable as it will allow firefighters to scan an environment without delay and not miss important details that could be critical to their survival if they should become lost or disoriented.
Scott Sight: This device has a 160×120 detector (19,200 pixels) with a thumbnail size screen which makes the images very difficult to discern especially those who wear glasses or prescription glass inserts in their Face-piece. This device was rated last in our evaluations because of the following:
* The field of view is very narrow.
* Battery life: The number one complaint with this device is battery failure in addition to the batteries are not well insulated placed inside the mask and next to the end users face. An alkaline battery pops open at 302 degrees possibly exposing Potassium Hydroxide to the firefighter. This device has the lowest temperature failure rating of any situational awareness TIC on the market as it is not as well insulated.
* The Color Palette offers three select-able options but the TI Basic is recommended which is Type 1 in the options menu.
* The Refresh Rate is 9 Hertz which is very slow. A firefighters head is constantly moving in a fire to and the device struggles to keep up. In addition, the blue tooth feature makes it very slow to turn on the IMD followed by the MMTIC and waiting on them to sync all while getting dressed for a fire.
We hope this information has been helpful. All situational awareness TICs have value but it is up to the organization to test any device prior to purchase to gauge its overall performance. Insight Training offers a course titled “Purchasing Implementation Criteria” in which we build a presentation and evaluation program based on the host organization’s top three choices. We then present our findings on the TIC’s in a classroom environment and spend the afternoon performing live fire testing. Upon completion of the live fire scenarios, each group grades the TIC they were using based on a specific set of criteria based objectives. In this matter, the host organization can make an informed decision rather than one based on a salespersons information. We must stress that none of these TIC’s are designed nor intended to replace a decision making TIC. If you or your department are not aware of the differences, we recommend reading the following article and reviewing the following study:
Do you know the two main types of fire service TIC’s?
Firehouse presents Thermal Imaging Survey Results (a nationwide study):
Please also watch the YouTube video link attached on this topic and feel free to give us a call if you have any questions.