3 fire departments get thermal imagers with grants

Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation donated four cameras worth about $37,000

By Tim Hodge
The Daily Herald

SPRING HILL, Tenn. — When seconds count, firefighters look to any tools that might help them assess an emergency situation in the quickest manner.

Several local fire departments received a device that can expedite the process — and may even save lives.

The Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation awarded handheld thermal imaging cameras to the Spring Hill Fire Department, the Summertown Community Volunteer Fire Department and the Fairview Fire Department. The SHFD received two cameras, and the two other departments each obtained one.

The departments were given the red-and-black cameras Thursday at the Spring Hill restaurant.

The cameras are worth about $37,000 and detect body heat and hot spots within structures, allowing firefighters to create plans of attack more efficiently during emergency situations. The devices can also be used to find victims faster.

Summertown Assistant Fire Chief Chris Cummins said his department has 22 volunteer firefighters. Cummins is also a captain with the Columbia Fire Department.

The cameras can detect temperature fluctuations and show firefighters places they need to attack, Cummins said. The devices can help protect firefighters from dangerous situations and can also aid in reducing property damage, he added.

"We rely on donations from the community to be able to function. Grants, like this, are essential for very small departments," he said. "Without Firehouse Subs and help from (franchisees) Chris and Tammy Ivie, we would have not been able to afford one of these."

SHFD Chief Terry Hood said thermal cameras have been around for 15 years. The newer models are a vast improvement from previous ones and provide a clear, more defined image.

When the technology was first developed, the cameras were primarily used to find bodies, Hood said. The newer models can detect heat signatures in homes and also have applications for local police departments, he said.

"Somebody tried to break into a building, and we found him because he was stuck in a vent — because of the heat signatures," Hood said. "It is helping command (staff) and the firefighters do their jobs. It's a cool tool."

Eventually, Hood said he would like to have all command vehicles outfitted with the cameras.

Firehouse Subs franchisee Chris Ivie, who lives in Summertown, said it was a "blessing" to give back to the community, especially his own. Smaller fire departments — like Summertown — would not have needed supplies without support from the Public Safety Foundation.

"It gives me great comfort to know that this equipment saves lives, and it could very well save mine," Ivie said.

Firehouse Subs spokesperson Meghan Vargas said the foundation has given more than $10 million worth of resources and equipment since its inception in 2005. Of that figure, more than $500,000 has been donated in Tennessee, she said.

About 60 percent of donations come from local restaurants, Vargas said.

In March 2013, the Public Safety Foundation also awarded the Maury County Office of Emergency Management diving gear valued at more than $11,000.


(c)2014 The Daily Herald (Columbia, Tenn.)

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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