Thermal imaging helps in fight against COVID-19
By Paul Lara, Belvoir EagleMay 1, 2020
Thermal imagers are forming the first line of defense for installations and public health organizations faced with addressing the risks associated with the global pandemic.When garrison command wanted to add enhanced body temperature scanning as an additional layer of protection for commissary shoppers and employees, the Army Rapid Equipping Force was ready to help.The REF Solution Team Lead, Lt. Col. David Wilson, was able to quickly supply a FLIR Systems T540 tripod-mounted thermal imager to meet the need. “It’s a device capable of measuring temperature at the skin surface.What’s unique about it is that the skin surface temp is no more than two degrees from the core body temp,” Wilson said. “From a safe distance of six to eight feet, the camera is designed to find the hotspot on a subject’s face. A person’s natural hotspot is by the tear ducts on the inner edge of your eye. It focuses on that area and reads the temp from that area.”Wilson explained the operators create a baseline, by scanning up to 10 individuals with normal temperatures. After scanning each of them, it creates an average and is calibrated and ready to be used. It is configured so operators get an audible alert for any body temperature more than three degrees above the baseline. When that occurs, operators conduct an additional reading with a different, hand-held forehead thermometer. If the high temperature is confirmed that person will not be allowed to enter the facility.During a recent Facebook town hall, Col. Michael Greenberg, Fort Belvoir Garrison commander, stressed there are no privacy issues with using these devices on the installation. “I want to dispel any rumors. Those are not cameras; those are passive thermal temperature readers. There are no SD cards (for recording) in there. Those devices are just giving a core temperature.”According to Greenberg, the scanners help support his overall mission of addressing the safety, health and welfare of Fort Belvoir employees, residents and visitors.REF, in conjunction with PEO Soldier and Assistant Secretary of the Army for Acquisition, Logistics and Technology, have conducted pilot tests for thermal imaging technologies (government and commercial, off-the-shelf). Wilson said he is working on requests for FORSCOM and TRADOC as well.According to a REF decision brief, the pilot programs will help determine the extent to which certain technologies may be used to support screening personnel and visitors, and their body temperatures, when entering military facilities.Industrial hygienists also use this technology in Belvoir homes to find air gaps around doors or windows, and offer real-time detection of interior moisture not visible to visual inspection.Today, thermal imaging has given teams a real-time tool to detect people with fevers and stop them from further spreading a highly-infectious virus.This story originally ran in the Belvoir Eagle on April 22, 2020.