Training To Fight Wildland Fires Without the Fire with Virtual Reality
When a call comes in to suppress a wildland fire, the intrepid first responders rarely know much about what they’re going to face. They’re dumped onto unfamiliar terrain miles from the nearest supply point, with only the gear they can carry, subject to a myriad of environmental factors that may or may not determine how the fire will behave. Their safety, and that of their fellow firefighters, depends on the experience and knowledge that can only come from rigorous training.
In the past, working on prescribed burns and utilizing out-of-the-classroom techniques such as staff rides, where small groups of firefighters are taken to former burn sites to study how those fires behaved, have been the only field supplements to sandbox simulations and classroom training available. But change is on the horizon.
Virtual reality (VR) is the newest wave of firefighting training technology. Leading the way is 360immersive, one of only a handful of companies in the U.S. developing apps for VR training in wildland firefighting and a variety of other first responder fields. Through VR, trainees are immersed in a 360-degree world of sight and sound that connects them to the experience like no other form of training.
VR can save thousands of dollars in areas where training budgets are often stretched thin. For example, instead of funding staff rides that require hundreds of firefighters to travel to remote locations each year, trainees can simply download the 360immersive app on their current mobile phone and put on an inexpensive VR headset.
Instantly, they’re placed in any number of real-world fire situations, without a speck of danger. Terrain maps overlaid with computer-generated fire imagery can re-create the fires under study, complete with smoke and wind, exactly as they happened. Trainees can see and hear everything around them and feel the stress of the situation as they try to make the correct decisions.
This increased level of situational connectivity results in a higher level of engagement and a proven increase in lesson retention. And many training modules come with the ability to give feedback and evaluate the user’s performance. Even better, firefighters can repeat the training as many times as they want, and come back to it later for refresher training, all at no additional cost.
To learn more about th advantages of virtual reality technology as a teach tool, visit 360immersive.com, or call us at 208-395-0007.