How much do you know about firefighter training? In an article published on January 29, 2020, by CNN, called “No smoke, no water, no waste. VR could train the next generation of firefighters” they discuss the up and coming practice of using virtual reality systems to train firefighters. This technology is being highlighted on CNN due to the vast spreading of wildfires blazing through Australia taking out more than 2.3 million hectares of land and hurting over half a billion animals. However, after reading this article it is clear that using virtual reality to train firefighters has many benefits, that stretch beyond the deathly implications of a fire on its own.
The technology itself simulates a variety of fire situations through visual cues through a headset, a heat simulation uniform, and pressurized hose simulation equipment, all of which are used to test decision-making skills under extreme pressure conditions similar to that of an actual fire. An Australian company called Flaim Systems was responsible for the technology that was piloted and used successfully in 2019, and it was also noted that the potential for this technology was very high.
Similar technology has since been tested in California, and they are working to implement it further as part of their firefighter training programs. Julie Rider, a California fire department captain also suggests that this simulation technology can help trainees better understand the challenges they may face as firefighters in regards to communication and different amounts of visibility. She also expressed that the virtual reality system created a very ‘lifelike’ situation and without the health risks that practicing with real fire creates.
What makes this virtual reality technology particularly groundbreaking is the environmental benefits to training firefighters using virtual reality technology. Using this technology can help reduce greenhouse gasses because there will be fewer fires being ignited for practice sake. Also, this will help with water conservation because gallons of water won’t be wasted for fighting non-emergent fires. Conserving water in areas like Australia and California which are notorious for both droughts and fires, is really important for the overall health of their respective communities. This will also reduce side effects that come along with fire reducing chemicals contaminating both the soil and the water runoff from the fire extinguishing.
Ultimately, this technology can change the way that firefighters are trained. This can increase their mental capabilities under pressure as far as testing a multitude of different scenarios with little to no stake. Additionally, the long-term impact of the implementation of virtual reality systems in firefighter training can have a big impact on reducing the environmental footprint of firefighter training.