Published on December 9th, 2019 | by Emergent Enterprise0
California Fire Department Using VR To Train Recruits How To Fight Wildfires
Is there a more dangerous profession than firefighter? Not many. That makes training for firefighter recruits on a virtual reality platform a no-brainer. Presley West posts at VRScout on how each recruit can “fight” a fire without risk of injury or death. They can see and hear the overwhelming environment of a wildfire and learn how to act and react correctly and quickly. All without singeing a single hair. The key metric of this effort is that recruits say they feel better prepared because of the immersive training. That saves lives – including their own.
VR technology offers firefighters-in-training realistic training scenarios.
In 2019 alone, over 6,402 fires have been recorded in California. An estimated 250,249 acres of land have burned, three people have lost their lives, and suppression costs from the fires have risen to over 163 million dollars. Capable of burning 10,000 acres of forest within an hour, the wildfires–more accurately described as firestorms–pose a unique challenge to firefighters that have been hard to replicate in standard training–until now.
The Cosumnes Fire Department, in collaboration with RiVR and Pico Interactive VR, is using VR to immerse new Fire Academy Recruits in several real-life fire scenarios prior to embarking on firefighting missions. Using VR headsets, firefighting recruits are able to visualize and experience how a fire develops, the rapid changes that occur during a fire, the smoke and fire conditions that can lead to flashover, and a fire situation that will lead to serious injury or death in seven unique immersive scenarios.
Since the program’s initial implementation in October, the Cosumnes Fire Department has successfully placed 20 Fire Academy Recruits in intensive VR training using two dozen headsets provided by Pico Interactive. The program has proved wildly beneficial; nearly every firefighter in the program agreed that they felt better prepared for real-life firefighting emergencies because of their experience in the immersive training program, and Fire Chief Mike McLaughlin plans to continue using the technology in future training academies.
The innovative collaboration between the Cosumnes Fire Department–which serves California’s Elk Grove and Galt communities, RiVR, and Pico Interactive first began on Linkedin. RiVR’s Alex Harvey and Ben Hermer were introduced to Cosumnes’ Fire Captain and Technologist Kirk Mckenzie on the social networking platform. Later, after meeting in person along with the Cosumnes Fire Chief Mike McLaughlin, the team realized the potential for life-saving firefighting training using VR.