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Thermal Exposure Sensor for Fire Fighters - Laboratory-Scale Performance Experiments



Nelson P. Bryner, Atul Deshmukh, John Casali, Jeff Lancaster, Roy A. McLane


During structural fire fighting operations, fire fighters wear protective gear to insulate them from high temperature environments, including hot combustion gases, burning surfaces, and thermal radiation. Current turnout gear insulates the fire fighter to such an extent, encapsulating his/her entire body, that it is difficult for each individual fire fighter to understand how hazardous or hot the thermal environment is. Therefore, the natural heat-sensing mechanism of the body is incapable of sensing the ambient temperature, possibly putting firefighters at risk. A thermal sensing device that attaches to the visor of the head gear is designed to restore situational awareness of the firefighter by showing varying heat intensity through different colored warning indicators in the firefighter’s line of sight. Human factors evaluation of the performance of the warnings in the thermal sensing device was conducted in laboratory-scale (i.e., climatic chamber experiments) and in full-scale (i.e. fire experiments in ISO room) environments. This report describes the laboratory-scale experiments and a second report describes the full-scale fire experiments. A static oven, representing the conductive type of heat; a fire equipment evaluator, with high speed convective flow loop, and a radiant panel, with intense heat flux were used to conduct laboratory-scale experiments.
Technical Note (NIST TN) - 1803
Report Number


fire equipment evaluator, fire tests, human factors, laboratory scale fire tests, personal protective equipment, radiant panel, self contained breathing apparatus mask, situational awareness, static oven, thermal exposure, thermal sensing unit


Bryner, N. , Deshmukh, A. , Casali, J. , Lancaster, J. and McLane, R. (2016), Thermal Exposure Sensor for Fire Fighters - Laboratory-Scale Performance Experiments, Technical Note (NIST TN), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD, [online], (Accessed May 22, 2024)


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Created July 26, 2016, Updated November 10, 2018