THERMAL imaging technology attracted a high level of interest at the underground rescue competition at St Ives gold mine near Kambalda in Western Australia late last year, according to Resources Safety — a division of the WA Department of Consumer and Employment Protection.
Thermal imaging technology was used by adjudicators to ‘see through’ smoke and fire at the underground rescue competition fire fighting scenario.
Thermal imaging cameras use infrared technology to provide sight when visibility is hindered by fire, smoke or darkness.
St Ives underground mine manager Geoff Newcombe demonstrated the effectiveness of the units during the competition by showing how bodies could be identified in otherwise ‘blind’ situations.
The increased visibility during a fire emergency allows fire fighters to locate a casualty quickly — a must in underground situations, and greatly reduces the amount of time casualties exposed to danger.
Another advantage of the units is that the cameras can detect different temperatures, which enables firefighters to identify hot spots so they can be suppressed, reducing fire damage.
The units assist in the RECEO chain of events used to control and evaluate firefighting — Rescue, Exposure, Control/Contain, Extinguish, Overhaul.
Like all electronic components, the prices of the units continue to come down and they are expected to be a normal safety feature to assist rescue in fire situations.
Other features in the latest units include digital temperature measurement up to 1,000°C and up to seven hours operating time image capture, with some models also allowing for video transmission.
With vehicle charging units available and weighing less than 2 kg, the units are versatile and extremely transportable.
This report is based on an article that first appeared in MINESAFE (Vol. 16, No. 3 — December 2007) published by the Resources Safety Division of the WA Department of Consumer and Employment Protection.