We used to think our four-projector system with two four-track reel-to-reel tape recorders and five actor/role players at Descanso, California was pretty sophisticated, but computer technology has taken simulation training for wildland firefighters to the next level. In an article at Firehouse.com, Mike Archer has assembled information about the current state of computer-based wildfire simulations, and compares products from three companies. They range from a basic system that takes a still image onto which you overlay smoke and flames (like our system at Descanso did), to a very customizable computer graphic-based image in which the trainee can fly around to see the incident from different vantage points. The prices for these systems range from $230 to $10,500.
Check out Mr. Archer’s article, (where three videos of the simulations will automatically begin playing simultaneously). Here is an excerpt about one of the products.
Based in Boise, ID, Bravo Delta, Inc, is the parent company of Total Immersion Simulation Systems (TISS), purveyors of a unique fire simulator that uses animation to allow users to model a wide variety of situations, including wildfires. The TISS environments are powered by E-sembles’ XVR [short for eXercise Virtual Reality and eXam Virtual Reality] training software. Through the use of XVR, they offer 2D or 3D visuals for their simulated environments. Their simulator packages are scalable from a single PC program to custom-made environments with immersion rooms or dome projection. Dennis Hulbert, a partner in Bravo Delta and a 38-year veteran of the fire service who retired as a Regional Aviation Officer with US Forest Service, provides some insight on this unique simulator.
“Our action-based scenarios use the latest technology to support ‘active learning’ [the learner is not restricted to follow a predefined learning path and not restricted to reading and observation] by immersing students into operational and tactical learning domains where, as individuals or working teams, they engage in interactive role playing with other trainees and educators,” Hulbert explained. “An active learner can interact with other trainees and the educator in the simulated environment and can learn by experimenting in the learning domain.”
Trainees have a variety of ways to experience the simulation. “Using a joystick, XVR allows one or more incident response professionals to walk, drive or fly around in the simulated reality of an incident,” Hulbert explained. “While the students are distracted by surrounding noise and confusion, they are expected to focus on their tasks and to set priorities.”