COLUMBIA, Mo. – This summer, University of Missouri Extension’s Fire and Rescue Training Institute brought in 25 instructors for a train-the-trainer class on the institute’s new virtual reality system.
Through a grant awarded by UM System President Mun Choi, FRTI had Pleiadian Systems develop a custom-built VR system to provide realistic scenarios for fire officers, said Harry Ward, FRTI assistant director and first-responder education coordinator. Scenarios range from responding to gas leaks to dealing with burning buildings engulfed in heavy smoke and flames.
“As the firefighters are put into the VR environment, they will perform just as they would in a real-life situation,” Ward said. “The system uses real-world science so that the environment is consistent with what firefighters will encounter at an actual event. For instance, if a firefighter is slow getting to the area of the fire, the fire will continue to grow. When firefighters apply water to the fire, if they don’t direct the water appropriately, the fire will continue to grow.”
Students start out in a virtual training room where they can learn how to move around, pick up tools, spray water from the nozzle, work with an air monitor and many other things, he said. “Once the students are comfortable with the controls they are put into the scenario.”
During the simulation, participants must meet certain benchmarks, such as putting out a fire or rescuing a trapped victim. Afterward, trainees gather in a virtual meeting room for an after-action review of what went right and what could have been better.
FRTI representatives will participate in a pre-conference roundtable on technology in the fire service at the International Fire Chiefs Association’s Fire-Rescue International this month in Kansas City.