When you go to the roof, what tools do you bring? The usual answer is the saw, a set of irons, a hook or pike pole, and life-saving rope. Is that all? The tool that might serve us best when conducting roof operations is often left on the rig: the thermal imaging camera (TIC). It should be a mandatory part of the roof tool inventory. First of all, how do you know where to cut your hole? Nineteenth-century thinking such as “bubbling tar”, “a dry spot on a wet day”, or “a place where the snow or ice is melted”, is ineffective and guesswork. Twentieth-century thinking such as “communication with the crews on the top floor” is also a hit or miss and subject to interpretative confusion. The thermal imaging camera will show a heat signature on any type roof (or on a floor above a cellar fire) where you can at least sink an examination hole and evaluate the situation. It is much better then guessing or using outdated methods.
The TIC can also be used to check around soil pipes for heat, check a cornice for potential fire spread, check an exposure roof and scan a roof soffit for heat build-up. Another valuable use is when the smoke condition on the roof is such that visibility is reduced and you are trying to find your way off the roof. In this case, the team using the TIC may be able to scan the roof and “see” where the aerial is or where a fire escape is located to more easily find their egress. It can also be used by an officer to keep track of his or her crews. One word of caution: just like a hole in the floor or a missing step, the presence of a shaft will be difficult to determine with the TIC unless there is heat coming from it. It may just look black on the screen. Be careful – always use common sense safety precautions when working on the roof such as was mentioned in the last installment about probing and keeping the weight off the leading foot. Remember – the tool you do not take with you is often the tool you need most.