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Use of Simulation and Emerging Technologies in Firefighter Training

Fire fighting is the act of extinguishing fires. A firefighter suppresses and extinguishes fires to protect lives and to prevent the destruction of property and of the environment. Firefighters may provide other valuable services to their communities, including emergency medical services.

Training firefighters in different situations that may arise on the fireground often involves a burn building at a training center, a controlled burn of a structure, or a prescribed wildland burn. Although these scenarios provide live-fire situations, they can be expensive in terms of personnel time and equipment and can also create the risk of unintended property damage or harm to the trainee.

Training simulations are used to provide lifelike situations and circumstances that the trainee experiences in a safe, controlled environment. The training value is maximized if it creates situations that the trainee can influence based on the decisions he makes or actions he takes.

Although simulations have long existed for the 2-D space of the personal computer, emerging technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) enable the creation of lifelike 3-D situations that may also include active, physical involvement by the trainee.

VR is the use of interactive computer software and hardware to create a simulated environment. The use of VR headsets can provide an immersive 3-D and 360° visual experience. The VR environment can be further intensified by sensory simulations such as touch, sound, heat, smell, or weather conditions. Common entertainment examples include video games such as Madden ’17, Call of Duty, and Halo.

Augmentation of the real world may be accomplished with digitally generated sights, sounds, or location data to enhance the perception of reality. AR in firefighter training may include the use of a heads-up display (HUD) incorporated into the mask of a responder’s self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). Such a display could simulate a smoke-filled room, a low-air supply, or a flashover situation.

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