Firefighters have been taught to read the building, read the smoke, and judge the IDLH environment based on what they see with the naked eye and to rely on feeling the heat as a measurement of thermal severity.
This tactical measurement leaves out an unseen critical perspective known as thermal data.
Thermal radiation is one of the fundamental methods of heat transfer that firefighters cannot see.
This lack of understanding and in many cases a total absence of training has created an education gap that leaves many firefighters literally in the dark with a device that they don’t know how to fully use properly that could potentially save their lives, save their citizens lives, and enhance their overall fire ground effectiveness.
Like the firefighter, The Paranormal Investigator is taught or intuitively can read the building, the atmosphere, based on what they can see with the naked eye or feel, for spirit or a presence of an entity as the measurement of a presence.
In this article, we will address some of the misconceptions or “myths” of Paranormal Investigators' thermal imaging use.
The term Paranormal Investigator thermal imager or TIC will be used as there are many different types of thermal imaging cameras for use outside of the fire service that has various capabilities that firefighters currently do not use or have training on as of yet. We will address these issues with factual, evidence-based data.
Myth: “I don’t need a thermal imaging camera to tell me where a ghost is; I will wait until my senses tell me there may be a presence of a spirit or entity.”
Paranormal Investigators are not taught how to investigate or how to even plan their investigation properly.
Paranormal Investigators will be losing out on many valuable concepts and skills as they progress throughout their careers. Unfortunately, many of us (including myself) were never taught to investigate correctly.
We see how others have done it before us, and copy or adapt investigative techniques until we are experienced through time.
How ever, when it comes to using equipment to detect and or validate or capture evidence, we can all copy other users, normally directly by watching the TV paranormal shows that use the equipment.
So everybody now wants to have the next Gucci bite of paranormal kit in their box of paranormal equipment.
But there is much more to it than just buying the gear.
"All the gear, No Idea"
This can apply to most of the paranormal equipment there is available to buy for the professional Investigator and the hobbyist investigator to use, but we will keep it to just TIC for now.
Don't get the label of "All the gear, with no idea" label, you will find it hard to shake off!
In the Royal Navy Fire and Crash Rescue fire service, one of the misconceptions I encountered when teaching firefighters on how to use the TIC is overcoming the tendency to read a spot meter reading in the lower right-hand corner of the display or screen.
First and foremost, firefighters (and you the Paranormal Investigator) need to understand that thermal imaging cameras are NOT thermometers.
This numerical reading of the temperature is a small measurement of a 12” area that calibrated to +/- 3 degrees Celsius.
IF the TIC is within its proper distance to the target AND without any atmospheric attenuation that may affect its measurement.
This measurement is known as an “apparent temperature” which is an approximate or estimates that falls within certain variables.
When a TIC is calibrated it is done so by measuring temperature on a target at a preset distance with no smoke, fire, moisture that would interfere with the measurement.
Proper Distance to the Target:
TIC’s Distance to Spot Ratio accuracy varies and can be as low as 10:1 (10 feet away measuring a 1-foot square) to as high as 900:1 (900 feet away and measuring a 1-foot square).
One of the most important variables in temperature measurement is Emissivity. Emissivity is an object's ability to emit heat. Emissivity ratings are defined as a fraction of energy (rated between zero and one) in comparison to a perfectly black surface which has an emissivity value of 1.
You also need to know that a TIC detects thermal radiance from solid surfaces and from gases that radiate in the 8-14 micron spectral range.
Emissivity affects the radiation in a way that can make the surface or gas appear to be a temperature that is different than it actually is.
In general, surfaces that are black and rough in surface texture tend to have high emissivity’s and surfaces that are shiny/smooth have lower emissivity.
A very shiny material with low emissivity, which will cause the TIC to read the reflected apparent temperature which will the ambient temperature around it which is incorrect.
Some other variables that will affect a TIC’s measurement are listed below:
Wind: Winds as low as 3 miles per hour can cut temperature measurements by 50%.
Moisture: Long Wave Infrared Energy can be blocked or dissipated as it moves through steam. Environments with sprinkler heads flowing or high moisture content may limit or block the TIC’s ability to measure or see. The lens of the TIC may become obscured with moisture preventing it from working properly.
Myth: A Thermal Imaging Camera can read smoke/mists or gas temperatures.
There are many types of thermal imaging cameras available today and some of them can read gas temperatures which are known as optical gas imaging cameras.
However, our thermal imaging cameras do not read gases nor accurately read smoke/mist temperatures. This is due to the following:
TIC’s measure heat from surfaces that fall in the emissivity range of .95 to .97.
There are only three known gases that fall into this range which are ethane, ethylene oxide, and hydrogen cyanide.
Different Range of the Infrared Spectrum:
TIC’s see or detect Long Wave Infrared Energy which falls into the spectral range of 7-14 microns.
A micron is a millionth of a meter. Many gases fall into the spectral range of UV light, Short Wave Infrared (SWIR), and Mid Wave Infrared (MWIR).
A TIC does not detect infrared energy within these ranges.
Paranormal Investigators using TICs should be encouraged to view the environment knowing that what the TIC is showing them is normally heat/cold signatures from services and convection currents coming from those surfaces.
Myth: All TIC’s are the same:
To believe such a statement can ultimately cost you the end-user with an improper purchase and can lead you to detect false positives, and presenting false evidence to your peers, and affecting your credibility of being a competent investigator
In a research paper, the following statement was made in regard to image quality “It should be emphasized that the TIC optical system, electronic processing, and display quality make large contributions to overall image quality”.
Each TIC that is produced today uses a variety of detectors, different electronic processing, and some are even using interpolation which is a form of image enhancement that allows the end-user to see more detail than ever before. (See Images Below).
An older 30 year old TIC image
Studying numerous models of TIC’s and working diligently to stay up to date and knowledgeable on new technologies as they emerge onto the market is a constant battle.
Thus, many Paranormal Investigators and other end users are not educated on the fact that colourisation of the thermal environment and their associated temperatures are not universal across TIC manufacturers.
For example, the majority of TIC’s (with the exception of a few) do not show colourisation until the TIC switches to Low Sensitivity Temperature Mode.
Unfortunately, when TIC’s switch to low sensitivity and at what temperature they begin to show colour is not standardised nor universal.
Thermal Image Cameras in the paranormal field should all comply and should follow the Thermal Image Basic colour format which progresses from hot to cold in the following colour progression: black, grey, white, yellow, orange, red. As a Paranormal standard, so all our evidence can be correlated validated by trained users of TIC equipment.
Unfortunately, no two manufacturers are alike with regard to colour temperature correlation.
For example, the following TIC’s show colourisation in low sensitivity temperature mode at the following temperatures:
MSA 6000: Yellow Colorization appears at 1000 Degrees Fahrenheit/538 Degrees Celsius in Low Sensitivity Temperature Mode.
Drager UCF series (6000-9000 models): Yellow colourization appears at 572 Degrees Fahrenheit/300 Degrees Celsius in Low Sensitivity Temperature Mode.
Bullard (all models): Yellow colourisation begins at 500 degrees Fahrenheit/260 Degrees Celsius in Low Sensitivity Temperature Mode.
FLIR (K2-K65 Models): Yellow colourisation begins at 300 degrees Fahrenheit/148 Degrees Celsius in Low Sensitivity Temperature Mode.
Leader 3.3 Model: Yellow colourisation appears at 392 Degrees Fahrenheit/200 Degrees Celsius.
Argus: Yellow colourisation appears at 300 Degrees Fahrenheit/148 Degrees Celsius.
Scott X380 Models: This model has Tri-Mode Temperature Sensitivity and breaks the overall temperature range into three spans (High, Medium, and Low Sensitivity). Each Temperature Sensitivity Mode has a different colour temperature correlation.
In conclusion, this is only three of numerous myths or misconceptions about TIC’s that we have encountered in our travels.
We encourage the reader to learn their specific brand of TIC, how to properly interpret the image, and to attend as much training on Paranormal Investigations with their TIC as they can so they will be better prepared for the challenges of the Paranormal world.
By reading this article we hope you are more knowledgable now than when you first started reading this article on Thermal Imaging Camera.
Common misconceptions of thermal imaging use
Myths versus Facts
In addition to this, there are predominately two major types of TIC’s available today: Situational Awareness TIC’s & Decision Making TIC’s.
Both are necessary and useful in their proper context but to use a situational awareness TIC for a decision-making TIC will ultimately lead the end-user to a very dangerous and disappointing conclusion.
What is the difference between the two types of fire TIC’s?
1) A situational awareness TIC can be simply described as a single purpose unit. They are generally smaller in size (can be hand-held, or Facepiece mounted). They are generally lower resolution and have a slower processor speed of refresh rate.
2) A decision making TIC can be described as one that meets the following criteria: High resolution (minimum of 320×240 pixels), Fast Refresh Rate (at least 30 Hertz), 3.5” viewfinder or display screen, and a High Dynamic Range (from zero degrees Fahrenheit to 1200 degrees Fahrenheit/650 degrees Celsius).
What does this mean to the end-user?
First, lower resolution TIC’s have very short ranges of visibility and measurement (generally 7-10 feet or 2-4 meters).
Secondly, they typically have a lower distance to spot ratio which means they are only able to accurately measure or determine a heat source at a relatively close distance such as 10 feet away which limits the Paranormal Investigators' decision-making abilities.
Thirdly, they tend to have a slower processor speed or refresh rate.
Some are as low as 9 Hertz. One hertz is one frame per second.
The human eye sees at 27 Hertz.
Therefore, the minimum for refresh rate or processor speed should be 25 Hertz.
This is why we do not recommend purchasing a TIC less than 25-27 Hertz.
TIC’s that have a refresh rate less than this rate will trail or lag when scanning which can cause the Paranormal Investigator to miss large areas as the TIC will shutter to catch up.
As the TIC shutters or NUC’s (non-uniformity correction) it briefly “closes its eyes” by the process of an electronic shutter that fires in front of the lens allowing the pixels on the detector to be wiped clean and a new image is formed as the pixels receive new infrared heat signatures.
In a 9 Hertz TIC, the time it takes to perform this operation can cause Paranormal Investigators to miss valuable information. For example, some situational awareness TIC’s take 3-5 seconds when they encounter large heat/cold signatures as the TIC switches from High Sensitivity to Low Sensitivity.
In my tenure in the Paranormal Community, I have seldom encountered a patient Paranormal Investigator in an environment where every second could count, nor do they have the luxury of time.
Where you need to suddenly pan your TIC from one area to another quickly. By the time your TIC has caught up with you, you've missed the action.
This is why these lower refresh rates are not optimal nor practical for use as a decision making TIC.
But why would Paranormal Investigators try to use a situational awareness TIC improperly you might ask?
Because They don’t know what They don’t know and for budgetary reasons.
A smooth salesperson who shows you that you can buy a TIC for every investigator for £100 versus the cost of one high-resolution decision-making TIC can be 5X’s this amount or higher can sway the buyer quite easily. So you end up buying a cheap FLIR camera that isn't up to the job you want it for.
We have seen teams and read articles across the UK, US, and Canada where Teams have disposed of their handheld TIC’s and replaced them with lower cost, low resolution, situational awareness TIC’s.
They have even made public statements that their Paranormal Investigators are now better prepared.
This is an illusion of superiority created by a lack of education and unethical salesmanship by the seller.
However, Situational Awareness TIC’s are extremely important to Paranormal Investigators and if a team can afford to outfit every Paranormal Investigator with one, they will find that their Paranormal Investigators will be able to debunk or validate evidence of the paranormal during an Investigation.
They are not meant nor designed to replace a high resolution, faster refresh rate, higher dynamic range decision making TIC.
Myth - TIC’s show colorisation when it is too hot/cold!
A newer 2 year old TIC image
PRIVATE PARANORMAL INVESTIGATORS
GHOST INVESTIGATION TEAM
The fire service has been using thermal imaging cameras successfully since the 1990s. Many lives have been saved through the tactical use of thermal imaging cameras (TIC).
Since the first implementation of these devices, they have been greatly improved and their overall cost has been dramatically reduced making them more readily available to the GENERAL PUBLIC
However, the education and training across the board on TIC’s has not been updated nor has it been the primary focus for the paranormal community to train in its correct use either.
The difference in old thermal imaging technology and newer current models is quite staggering and as shown in the adjacent photo's comparing a 30-year-old TIC versus a 2-year-old TIC the image clarity.
This can be compared to viewing a black and white television versus a modern-day LED High Definition TV.