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Simulator provides realistic training for emergencies

By Noelle Hunter
Staff Writer CNHI The Morehead News Tue Jan 25, 2011
http://themoreheadnews.com/local/x1221301221/Simulator-provides-realistic-training-for-emergencies

Jan. 25, 2011 — At any moment, emergency personnel must be ready to respond to a crisis.

This means maneuvering through traffic, hazardous road conditions and even around other response teams. The Kentucky Fire Commission trains drivers to navigate these conditions using a state-of-the-art simulator.

The Driver Training Simulator is 50-foot tri-axle trailer equipped with three computer simulators that look and feel quite like a real-life response scenario.

Jordan Clark is a junior firefighter in the Morehead Explorers. The 16-year-old practices response driving in the Kentucky Fire Commission Driver Training Simulator. The $800,000 simulator is used to train rescue personnel to respond to emergencies under various hazardous driving conditions.

Gary Clarke is a state instructor for the Area 9 Kentucky Community and Technical College System (KTCS). He is one of a few instructors that bring simulator training to fire and rescue personnel.

“The simulator is pretty realistic,” Clarke said.

“We simulate conditions that fire and rescue personnel will actually encounter as they respond to emergencies. A driver can experience snow, nightfall, pedestrian traffic, and other conditions,” he said.

The trailer has three simulators, which are programmed using data from actual emergencies.

Two of the simulators mimic large emergency response vehicles such as fire engines, ladder trucks, water tankers, rescue units and ambulances.

The third simulator provides experience with smaller emergency response vehicles such as police cruisers and chiefs’ vehicles, according to the Kentucky Fire Commission.

Last week, local responders got in the driver’s seat. Morehead Fire Station 2 hosted the training for fire and rescue personnel.

“They go through scenarios where they hear a call from dispatch about a choking child, a house or building fire or other emergencies,” Clarke said.

When they get in the simulator, they have to check gauges, use their mirrors to see what’s behind them and drive through some pretty challenging conditions,” he added.

“The chair even shakes as they rumble towards a scene.”

Three view screens encompass the driver, and a computer monitors their responses, reflexes and techniques. After the simulation, the driver can replay his actions to correct errors and improve his ability to respond the next time.

Jordan Clark is a 16-year-old junior firefighter in the Morehead Explorers. He tried the simulator.

“It takes some getting used to,” Clark said.

As he navigated through several scenarios, Instructor Clarke adjusted his view from day to night, added rain and fog, and even caused his engine to overheat. When Clark’s engine slid and fell on its side, Clark shuddered along with it.

“This simulator is awesome!” he exclaimed.

The Driver Training Simulator travels throughout Kentucky and parts of Indiana as well. It is available for training and for civic events. To request or learn more about the simulator, call the Kentucky Fire Commission office at 800-782-6823.

Noelle Hunter can be reached at nhunter@themoreheadnews.com or by phone at 784-4116.

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