Fire fighting VR training can save lives

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Health and safety is paramount in fire fighting. But live training exercises are dangerous and put lives at risk. According to the US Fire Administration, VR is the answer

Quick read

➨ USFA recently highlighted VR training as “a practical, safe alternative to dangerous live fire scenarios” that cost the lives of 110 firefighters between 2008 and 2019
➨ ‘Off the shelf’ VR equipment and apps can be adopted for use in the fire service with a low entry cost. At a higher price point, enterprise business VR solutions and custom software for emergency services are available that will provide a robust VR system
➨ VR training solutions for fire fighting range from the ultra realistic, aimed at putting trainees through simulations that are as close to the real thing as possible, to softer introductions covering the basics

The story

VR training has received a glowing recommendation from the US Fire Administration (USFA).

USFA, a division of the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency dedicated to supporting and strengthening fire and emergency medical services, recently highlighted VR training as “a practical, safe alternative to dangerous live fire scenarios” that cost the lives of 110 firefighters between 2008 and 2019.

VR is “raising the bar in firefighter training while helping save lives and conserve valuable resources”, according to USFA. Its chief advantage is enabling training for incidents that cannot easily be replicated or may be very costly to recreate, not to mention eliminating the hazards involved in live training.

Other benefits include less wear and tear on personal protective and response equipment, which can also be left where it’s needed when responding to incidents.

VR also allows for the development of training scenarios using actual locations. They can be reused, provide training by repetition, and offer the opportunity for walkthroughs and ‘what if’ scenario development.

USFA went on to explain the options available to fire and emergency medical services interested in adopting VR for training.

‘Off the shelf’ VR equipment and apps can be adopted for use in the fire service with a low entry cost. At a higher price point, enterprise business VR solutions and custom software for emergency services are available that will provide a robust VR system.

“Critical” to the use of VR is the quality, according to USFA. Sound and visual quality with intuitive interactions creates “the truly immersive experience”.

Fire fighting is an ideal application for training in VR, where seasoned personnel and new recruits can practice strict processes designed to save lives in relative safety and at a significantly lower cost to their employers.

VR training solutions for fire fighting range from the ultra realistic, aimed at putting trainees through simulations that are as close to the real thing as possible, to softer introductions covering the basics.

FLAIM Trainer is a high-end solution for fire departments. The simulator provides an immersive, VR environment combined with a haptics feedback system, breathing apparatus and heated personal protective clothing.

UK-based RIVR has developed several VR training solutions for firefighters, ranging from scenes for investigators to learn how fires begin and spread, to recreations of California wildfires so that new recruits at the Cosumnes Fire Department can visualise and experience how fires in the wilderness develop.

More recently, Vobling, the enterprise-focused subsidiary of Nordic XR company Bublar, launched VR Fire Trainer on Oculus Quest for emergency training in businesses.

VR Fire Trainer is a mobile, easy-to-use off-the-shelf programme, targeting businesses in need of readily accessible VR fire emergency training. Vobling developed the progenitor for the first-of-its-kind simulator for Oculus Quest in partnership with Vy Group, one of the largest transport groups in the Nordic region, last year.

Ole Johnny Haugen, head of development at Vy, echoed USFA’s focus on the safety benefits of training in VR in an interview with VRWorldTech.

He said: “VR simulation is very useful for this kind of training in many different ways. It gives us the opportunity to train in a safe environment. There are no real flames or smoke that could harm the trainee or instructors.”

“VR also gives us the opportunity to train in a simulation that is as close to the real life experience as possible. It is nearly impossible for us to create this kind of realistic scenario in real life. With the use of VR, we can develop scenarios with both flames and smoke in our own recognisable trains. It also gives us the possibility to focus training specifically on what we need.”

“We can develop our own scenarios so that they focus on different risks.”

Whether you represent a fire department working on the front line to fight fires and save lives, or a business where the threat of fire is a real risk, there are multiple VR solutions available to effectively train your employees.

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Main image: Top, FLAIM Trainer, and bottom, an expert from the International Association of Arson Investigators goes through one of six RiVR Investigate burn scenarios