The Safety Risks of Firefighter Training
Fire departments benefit from training in a variety of ways. Training aims to
- Acquaint firefighters with firefighting methods and strategies.
- Enhance their reactivity while carrying out critical activities.
- Ensure that they know how to use the equipment.
- Develop better teamwork, and improve communication during emergencies.
While traditional training has apparent benefits, it is hampered by high risks and costs. In 2020, there were 7,550 injuries, and in 2019, there were five deaths caused by live training in the United States alone.
Firefighters face a challenging task in figuring out how to teach students to make decisions in dangerous situations. Learning materials such as books and classroom lectures are one alternative. But, these are insufficient strategies because they do not entirely reflect complex scenarios. As a result, trainees are subjected to live training, which is expensive and dangerous. Many safety experts have long seen training to be an unpleasant ineffective solution.
Providing live-fire training comes at a financial, environmental, and human cost.
Financial costs include:
- The cost of operating apparatus, support trucks, and equipment,
- Cost of building and maintaining burn structures,
- Liability costs when training goes wrong.
- The cost of facilities, materials, and skilled trainers is included in the economic costs.
- And costs associated with maintaining compliance with state legislation or the NFPA 1403.
Environmental costs include
- Exhaust from apparatus, generators, and mechanized equipment,
- Foam discharge and wastewater runoff from frequent and lengthy live-fire training activities,
- And air pollution generated by igniting materials
Human costs include:
- Exposure to carcinogens, toxins, and pollutants,
- The possibility of firefighters being injured or killed while training.
So, how can Virtual Reality reduce firefighter training costs?
A VR training approach can address these problems and provide training in a safe and cost-efficient setting.
The benefits to firefighters for using virtual reality devices in real-life practice events include:
- reduced training time,
- accessible from anywhere,
- lower operational and labour costs,
- a larger variety of content,
- and maintaining the safety of people and facilities.
What is Virtual Reality?
Virtual reality (VR) is a three-dimensional computer simulation that a human can examine and interact with. People can manipulate items or undertake a sequence of acts while using VR.
Virtual simulation technology has grown in an ever-changing technological era, establishing itself as a powerful tool in a variety of educational fields, including
- Business ethics training,
- Counselor training,
- Medical training,
- emergency response training, and more.
This is because virtual training allows for the training of complicated scenarios. It aligns well with training in the emergency response domains. But particularly for firefighters, who deal with high-risk, low-frequency occurrences during deployment. Virtual reality is perfect for this as it allows firefighters to prepare for rare scenarios while still being a cost-effective, realistic, safe and efficient alternative to live-fire training.
VR breaks down the activities of response, arrival, size-up, search and rescue, and suppression in all these scenarios. Firefighters learn and practice their skills in a safe atmosphere, then build on them.
1. Virtual Immersion
One of the main benefits of VR is that it allows learners to experience simulated situations without placing them in any real danger. Due to the capacity to conduct training in immersive environments, trainees can have a far more intense experience with sensations of
- psychological stress,
- and anxiety during scenario practice.
When firefighters are exposed to real-life occurrences, this improves their decision-making process and task execution.
One of the most severe risks to adequate training is a reduced budget. This is due to the high cost of purchasing a reusable building for live-fire training. The cost makes it impossible for smaller fire departments to provide live-fire training to their staff regularly.
Virtual training can address these issues by allowing firefighters to practice in a single location. VR offers
- cost-effective content modification for various circumstances,
- equipment mobility for convenient movement,
- And the flexibility to adapt to any training purpose.
3. Complex and Diverse Training
Firefighters can also experience a greater range of sophisticated training scenarios in a single session when they use virtual training. Virtual training can be used to respond to an oil spill on an offshore platform, evacuate people from a downed plane, or fight wildfires. Training can vary in complexity.
Firefighters have complete control over the scenario simulation and can repeat drills without coordinating extra resources or staff. Virtual training is a dynamic and adaptive approach that can be applied to any firefighting discipline.
4. Risk-Free Firefighting Environment
VR training allows learners to receive training for high-risk events without exposing them to the risks. It gives firefighters realistic and risk-free training activities without jeopardizing their learning ability.
Instructors can use simulation to produce effects that look and behave like fire, smoke, and the sounds that go with it. Because the situation is so realistic, it gives the trainees an adrenaline rush and forces them to learn response techniques while remaining in a safe environment.
5. Better and Faster Learning
When compared to traditional training techniques, virtual training not only saves time and lowers dangers but also improves potential training outcomes. Trainees can repeat workouts, track their activities, and receive immediate feedback.
Firefighter training used to have to occur in a specified location at a specific time. This is no longer the case with the virtual reality training approach. Trainees can receive training from any location as long as they have the necessary equipment.