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The Future of Fire Training is Virtual

The Future of Fire Training is Virtual

Overall, firefighters in the U.S. fight roughly one-half to one-third as many fires as they did 50 years ago. On-the-job experience is the ultimate test of skills learned in academy, and fewer fires mean fewer chances for first responders to practice.

Meanwhile, firefighting has become more complex. The growth of electric vehicles (EVs) on the market has led to car fires that are more complicated and more difficult to extinguish. According to Business Insider, highly combustible chemicals in electric car batteries pose new challenges to firefighters on a regular basis. A phenomenon known as the “thermal runaway” results in an overheated EV battery that becomes over-pressurized, causing fires and explosions. Even after an EV battery fire appears to be extinguished, energy cells in the battery can cause fires to reignite.

Fires in EVs are typically addressed with aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF), which demands more careful application and handling than water (and, in many communities, is harder to use in training exercises because of environmental and safety concerns).

All of this comes together to pose concerns about the readiness of many firefighters.

Facing New Challenges with Simulation-Based Training

Simulators are rapidly proving to be the best solution for meeting these compounding challenges. For example, an increasing number of fire departments and other firefighting agencies are embracing FAAC’s patented Pump Ops pump operation simulators.

Pump-Ops is the only firefighting simulation system that can emulate both water- and foam-based operations. Pump-Ops doesn’t simply allow your staff to train on basic operations under good conditions—it creates every possible challenge or equipment failure. Fire fighters can practice equipment inspection, diagnostics, and reasoning skills, they can hone their skills with fire service hydraulics, and improve vital communication skills during operations.

The Pump-Ops simulator is a life-sized panel constructed from genuine OEM surface components, with multisensory feedback systems integrated into the unit. Pump-Ops can be paired with immersive VR-based Flaim Trainer fire suppression and hose training accessories so teams can work through evolutions together, honing both communications and firefighting skills under a variety of conditions.

Pump-Ops uniquely integrates advanced fluid modeling, simulation software, and real pump panel components, and is in active use in 100+ deliveries. It also readily networks with other fire simulators from FAAC (like fire truck driving simulators and inCommand). During larger exercises, everyone can experience the same shared immersive scenario—without taking any apparatus out of service, risking anyone’s safety, or using any valuable resources.

The ever-changing landscape of firefighting requires continued training for first responders to work safely and effectively. Bill Martin, FAAC Public Safety Business Manager, says: “It’s obviously impractical and unsafe to set fire to an EV or set fire to a house filled with potentially toxic and combustible consumer goods for training purposes. But it’s very difficult to create a meaningful training exercise that’s both safe and captures even a few aspects of such emergencies.”

Fire Training Solutions that Evolve to Meet New Challenges

Martin explains that, “For years, we’ve specialized in giving first responders a safe environment for training on core skills: arriving at the scene, assessing the severity of the incident, identifying hazardous materials or equipment faults, adapting as necessary, and maintaining situational awareness.” To provide the most immersive and effective simulation training, FAAC has recently overhauled their fire training simulators, shifting to the robust Unity VR platform. This both give trainers more options in designing scenarios, and creates a more lifelike and immersive simulated environment for firefighters, for even more engaging and effective training.

Want to take a look? FAAC will be showcasing both a full PumpOps panel and the VR prototype of this latest generation of simulator at FDIC International in April.  FAAC Public Safety Business Manager Bill Martin and other FAAC experts will be at on hand April 18–20 at the Indiana Convention Center & Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, IN, at Booth #13077. We look forward to seeing you there! If you can’t make it, don’t hesitate to contact us whenever you’re ready.