Illinois State Police SWAT Trooper Nicholas Hopkins

It is with great regret and sadness that we acknowledge the loss of  Illinois State Police SWAT Trooper Nicholas Hopkins.

On August 23, 2019, at approximately 5:26 a.m., Trooper Nicholas Hopkins and other ISP Troopers were executing a search warrant at a residence in the 1400 block of North 42nd Street in East Saint Louis. There was an exchange of gunfire at the residence, and Trooper Hopkins was struck. Trooper Hopkins was transported to a local area hospital with life threatening injuries. At approximately 6:10 p.m., Trooper Hopkins succumbed to his injuries.

Trooper Nicholas Hopkins is survived by his wife Whitney Hopkins; children Evelyn and Owen (twins), and Emma; Donations may be made to the Hopkins family by visiting the Illinois State Police Heritage Foundation website at, or via U.S. mail to Illinois State Police Heritage Foundation, P.O. Box 8168, Springfield, Illinois 62791. On the website, please ensure to note in the comments section, “Trooper Nick Hopkins Memorial Fund.”

Are Contaminants Hurting Your Bottom Line?

Contamination has always been a problem within the bulk transportation industry. We can define a contaminant as any object, or substance that renders something impure. In practical terms, it can be described as any substance that is foreign and is not a component of the primary product or material. It can also be an object that is an unintended contact with the primary product or material.

Contaminants can have a negative impact on any type of bulk load, but often have overwhelming consequences when they come into play with food products or supplements intended for human or animal consumption. There are many types of contaminants that can ruin food products that are being transported in bulk. Examples of typical contaminants are fungi, residual heel from previous loads, corrosion, delaminating liners, vermin, and foreign objects such as: tools, phones, lights, pens, etc.

Tank maintenance can play a big role in minimizing potential contamination problems. It is imperative to maintain hygienic conditions in a tank between loads. A tank wash operation is a basic, common sense maintenance that is critical to reducing the risk of contamination. Unfortunately, the reality is the opportunity for contamination can still exist even if a tanker has gone through a tank wash process.

There have been many instances where a fully loaded tanker was contaminated following a proper tank wash procedure:

  • In one case, a rail tanker had gone through an internal tank wash process and had not yet been loaded. A bird flew into the open manway at some point following the wash. The bird was not noticed, and the tanker was filled with a liquid consumable product and it was delivered to a customer at a manufacturing plant. The liquid was used as an ingredient for the manufacture of a snack food and was used for a time before the contaminant was discovered. The resultant discovery created a major disruption to the plant manufacturing process, employee downtime, expensive sanitation procedures, wasted bulk product and transportation costs. Liability for this event went well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars and damaged the reputation and brand of the company that delivered the contaminated product.
  • In another instance, a tank was put through a wash process, but because of a system malfunction, a pocket of the old product remained in the tank. The tank was next filled with a dis-similar product. This led to a cross contamination event that resulted in a mass product recall and many individuals were sickened.
  • There was one occurrence where workmen were repairing a tank interior and accidentally left lithium battery powered utility lights in the tank. The tank was washed but the lights remained in the tank, and it was used to transport a food product. Fortunately, the seals held on the lights and there were no significant negative consequences. This may not have been the case if the lithium batteries were exposed to the liquid food product and it found its way into a pet, livestock or consumer food product.

The one preventative measure that can catch these contamination events and stop them from occurring is to perform a cursory visual inspection of the internal tank conditions just before loading product. This can be problematic as tanks are confined spaces and are inherently dangerous to enter. OSHA has mandated safety procedures to help ensure the well-being of anyone that must break the plane of a confined space environment. A proper and safe confined space entry, requires training, manpower, equipment and administrative oversight. This means that a quick visual inspection can add complexity, cost, and an additional safety concern into the process. 

Zistos has created a video inspection system that can be inserted into a confined space, such as a tanker, to look for these potential contaminants with no entry required. The tanker inspection system, HDTI-5AR-TIP6-3.5Z, can provide a high-resolution image of conditions inside of the tank, viewable by an individual who remains outside of the confined space-envelope.

The ZistosHD tanker inspection system consists of a telescoping pole with a camera on the base. We insert the pole and camera assembly into the tank via the manway. A swivel assembly on the pole spans the manway opening and allows the camera to be manipulated by the user so it can view any area of the interior. The system generates a wireless HD video signal that can be viewed by the inspector, or others, on a body-worn, hands-free, tablet display. It can also be wirelessly transmitted to an existing network and viewed on a supervisor’s computer. The self-illuminating camera also features a 30X optical zoom that can magnify the smallest of suspicious indicators of potential contaminants.

The inspector can scrutinize the interior to make a final decision, just prior to load, that conditions are acceptable and there are no obvious sources of contamination. Inclusion of this video inspection tool in quality control procedures can go a long way in minimizing the potential for many sources of expensive and devastating contamination events. As the old saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”!

Zistos Applies New Technology To Help Reduce Confined Space Entry Accidents

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) introduced the first regulation that protected personnel who work in confined spaces in 1993. Since then, we have come a long way in keeping confined space workers safe but until the number of fatalities from confined space accidents is at zero, there is still room for improvement.

According to a NIOSH study out of the 100 deaths investigated, the main reasons workers entered a confined space were to perform their work functions of routine maintenance, repairs and inspections. Most maintenance/repair operations start by visually inspecting conditions. We design the ZistosHD Tanker Inspection system to reduce the need to enter a confined space, such as a tanker truck, hopper, vault, or rail tanker. It accomplishes this by allowing an individual to make a visual assessment of the interior of the space without the need to enter. The ability to inspect these locations without the need to enter the confined space makes this phase of the process safer and more efficient.

The system (Part #: HDTI-5AR-TIP6-3.5Z), has a self-illuminating color camera head that features a 30X optical zoom. The camera head is attached to a telescopic pole which sits on the man-way and extends down into the confined space and can wirelessly send the video images onto a 5-inch, (optional 10-inch), tablet display. The inspection system can transmit video to off-site personnel and viewed remotely in real-time. In addition, it can capture the images on an SD memory card as still images (jpg), or motion video in 1080P resolution (mp4). The captured images can be stored on a computer for future reference or included in maintenance inspection reports.

OSHA specifies in regulations 1926.1209(e), that if an individual enters into a confined space, (the entrant), that there must be an individual who remains outside of the space, (the attendant), and is specifically tasked with ensuring that the entrant is not in duress. It is the responsibility of the attendant to maintain continuous communication with the entrant.  There is no OSHA mandated procedure on HOW to communicate with the entrant, just that it must be continuous and provided by the employer. Every company has its own method for communication between the entrant and attendant, and it can be as simple as knocking on the side of the tank and listening for a response, but there is no set rule. Camera technology can play a role to increase safety here as well. If following the visual inspection of the confined space it is determined necessary to enter, then the same video inspection system can assist. The OSHA mandated attendant can utilize it to visually monitor the status of the entrant from outside of the space via the video image.

In addition to the video based visual assessment of the entrant, the system also has listen/talk-back capabilities. This facilitates audible communication between the entrant and attendant, and both video and audio can be recorded. Providing a means for the outside attendant to visually confirm the well-being of the entrant and verbally communicate with them makes going into a confined space safer.

Stay safe by using the ZistosHD Tanker Inspection System to inspect the entire interior of a confined space from outside the space. If a confined space entry is unavoidable, keep safe by using this same system as an entrant monitor with live video and two-way audio communication.

Thermal Imagers: ZistosHD Dual Mode Thermal Camera vs Thermal Fusion Technology

Thermal cameras have come a long way since 1929 when the first infrared-sensitive camera was invented.  This new technology was initially considered exotic and it was expensive. In the last few years, the cost of thermal imaging technology has come down significantly, although thermal imagers with reasonable image resolution can still be pricey. Thermal fusion cameras, that utilize very low-resolution thermal sensors (80×60), which are enhanced by blending in a standard video signal, can be very inexpensive when compared to medium to high resolution thermal imagers. In certain applications the performance and suitability of images that utilizing thermal fusion can be questionable.

Thermal fusion is achieved when an image from a standard video camera is layered on top of an image from a low-resolution thermal sensor. This produces an image that depicts a black & white or colorized visualization of an object in the field of view of the thermal sensor that is outlined with an edge created from the standard video camera. The two cameras work in conjunction to give you a crude thermal image with enhanced edges. When used in this manner, the low resolution thermal fusion can produce a reasonable and usable thermal image. There are many applications where this approach is effective. It is useful in applications such as inspecting breaker panels, steam pipes, machinery, engines and other inspection applications where there is sufficient light for the standard video camera to produce a good image that can be utilized in the blending process. It also helps to know what you are looking at in advance, this is not always the case in many thermal imaging applications.

Image shows Thermal Fusion under perfect conditions

The shortcomings of this approach occur when the standard video camera that is producing the edge enhancement overlay on the thermal image doesn’t have enough light to create its outline. The image produced by the thermal fusion camera is now significantly compromised and may be of minimal value. Without the outlined overlay from the standard video camera, the thermal image has such low resolution that the image ends up looking like blotches of ill-defined color.  The image may not convey enough detail to make an accurate assessment of individuals and environment. When thermal fusion is utilized in tactical or victim location applications, you may not always have enough illumination for the standard video camera to produce a reasonable image. Additional external IR or white light illuminators will help, but they still might not deliver adequate illumination in all cases. This means that you may not be able to differentiate a partial or even full image of a human, from the background environment.

Image shows Thermal Fusion without enough light to produce outlines

The ZistosHD Dual Mode Thermal Camera (THC-51D-HD) allows the operator to instantly toggle between a 320×256 resolution thermal video camera and a 640×480 resolution, low-light, standard B&W video camera. The B&W video camera also has built in IR illumination that can further assist in low light conditions. Instead of overlaying an outline on top of a low-resolution thermal image, we use a higher resolution thermal camera in the same housing and an even higher resolution B&W low-light camera to switch between the two different images. We believe this construction is superior to thermal fusion for the following reasons.

Images show THC-51D-HD in both Thermal Mode & B&W IR Mode
  • The higher resolution thermal image produces a usable image without the need of any enhancement.
  • The secondary low-light B&W standard video camera can produce a video image that can convey additional visual details of the subject and environment.
  • In the THC-51D-HD, the Thermal and B&W IR Cameras are in the same housing. Therefore, there is no need to switch camera heads. It’s all done with system controls.
  • If the standard video camera in the thermal fusion process does not have enough light to produce a usable image the result is an extremely low-resolution thermal image which can be of limited value.
Left, Thermal Fusion Camera without enough light to produce outlines. Right, ZistosHD Dual Mode Thermal Camera in Thermal Mode in the same conditions.
  • The THC-51D-HD camera’s thermal mode can provide thermal detail regardless of ambient light levels.

All in all, despite thermal fusion being available as a new and low-cost thermal technology it may not be suitable as an imaging tool for many tactical and victim location/rescue missions, or any application where you can’t count on adequate illumination for the standard video camera to function. A higher resolution, standalone thermal image, such as the images produced by the ZistosHD THC-51D-HD camera, will in many instances be of more value than an image produced using a thermal fusion camera.

Largest Cocaine Seizure in US History

Video Credit to NBC10 Philadelphia

Congratulations to the members of the multi-agency team that were successful in the largest cocaine seizure in US History. The individuals involved in this mission engaged in a lot of hard work, in very difficult and dangerous conditions. We greatly appreciate their efforts and dedication in keeping our streets free of the 17.5 tons of illegal drugs captured in this operation.

All of us at Zistos are proud of the fact that our inspection equipment assisted them in the successful outcome of this landmark seizure. Thank you all for a job well done!