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FAAC inCommand Simulation: Improved Graphics Platform for more Immersive Hazmat Training

FAAC inCommand Simulation: Improved Graphics Platform for more Immersive Hazmat Training

One year after the East Palestine, OH, train derailment and hazmat disaster many questions remain:

  • Despite a year of intensified regulatory scrutiny, why have rail accidents increased during the last year?
  • Are the water and soil safe in East Palestine?
  • Will the community recover?

The most important question for FAAC:

How can we help responders be better prepared for the next large-scale hazmat incident?

To provide the most immersive and effective simulation training, FAAC has recently updated the inCommand decision-making/scene management simulator, enhancing it to include the Unity VR platform. (Want to take a look?

Bringing Training Simulation to the Unity Platform

As an established gaming engine, Unity is already the world’s leading immersive simulation platform. With Unity support, FAAC simulations enjoy a higher degree of interoperability, giving trainers access to a much larger library of objects (e.g., specific vehicles, geographic forms, buildings, and so on).

Unity also vastly improves the visual rendering (and immersiveness) of any scenario. Unity is especially adept at modeling aspects of the environment that are important in hazmat situations: lighting and shadows, weather, precipitation, water, smoke, fog, heat haze, and other factors that hamper visibility and can complicate response efforts. It also allows for new interactions within the scenario, and new logic to govern the behavior of traffic, pedestrians, weather, fire, and more.

As Bill Martin (FAAC Public Safety business manager) explains, “The Unity platform brings a slew of improvements to inCommand. Many of these won’t be immediately obvious to the user. They give us greater latitude to create better simulations. But users will immediately notice the leap ahead in graphics and modeling.”

Improved Visuals Mean More Realistic Scenarios

One example is the “simulated binoculars” feature available in inCommand.

As the East Palestine derailment highlighted, it’s imperative that first responders can quickly identify what is in each rail car. “So we have developed some scenarios for this very specific type of low frequency, high impact event,” Bill explains. “You’re called to the scene. Then you’ve got to assess the severity of the incident. That means identifying the materials, and determining if any of the materials are hazardous. Naturally, there are placards on the rail cars, identifying the substances in the car.”


But, as in real life, these are unlikely to be ideally positioned for reading. Can you determine if the tanker below—which has plowed into the dirt and might have been breached—contains milk, sulfuric acid, or nothing at all?

“In this scenario,” Bill notes, ”one of the things the trainer is looking for is [whether] the trainee shows proper caution. Do they approach the rail car immediately, and potentially put themselves in danger? Or do they take the time and use the tools they have to see how hazardous the material is?”

If the trainee thinks to use binoculars, they are indeed available in the simulation.

“When you turn them on, your visual scene looks like you’re looking through binoculars. Whatever you’re looking at is magnified.”

It then becomes clear: this tanker contains anhydrous ammonia, a vital—and extremely dangerous—component for fertilizer.

Customizable Variables Improve Training Quality

“As you can see,” Bill adds, ”every scenario you run within inCommand is now even more customizable and detailed. You can create different sizes of spills, both hazardous and non-hazardous, with fire or no fire, with and without explosions. You can add vapors, fumes, and smoke, all flowing or blowing in various ways, even toward residential areas or other sensitive locations. You can have different materials, different numbers of rail cars, different environments—urban, rural, residential, and so on. You can control the severity or the amount of destruction. There can be bystanders, injuries, people wandering into the scene, other agencies arriving.”

As technology continues to improve, FAAC continuously works to leverage these improvements to make better emergency response training scenarios richer and more meaningful. This doesn’t just mean better modeling of fire characteristics and weather conditions, but also greater depth and complexity within the scenario itself. This allows for training that addresses the unique challenges that the current rail infrastructure poses for both transportation and public safety.