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US Fire Administration Takes A Stand On The Use Of VR For Firefighters Training

Image credit: FLAIM Trainer® by FLAIM Systems - Train Virtually, Experience Reality

In the article Virtual Reality Training May Save Firefighter Lives posted last July, the U.S. Fire Administration - an entity of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), takes a stand on VR training as a safe alternative to practical, dangerous live fire scenarios.

According to the article, from 2008-2019, 109 firefighters lost their lives due to training injuries. The leading cause of firefighter death during training is stress/overexertion (70%). The remainder of deaths are attributed to falls, vehicle collision, self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) failure or environmental exposure.

“VR technology is raising the bar in firefighter training while helping save lives and conserve valuable resources,” state the authors. “The use of VR technology allows training for incidents that cannot easily be replicated or may be very costly to recreate, not to mention eliminating the hazards involved in live training.”

The described benefits of VR Training to the fire service are safe training environment with 360-degree views; less wear and tear on personal protective equipment (PPE) and response equipment; first-line equipment remains available in its response area; create VR 3D spaces from photographs and videos of actual buildings in the response area; repeat after-action response scenarios; training anytime/anywhere; improved safety inspections and 3D visualizations of buildings within first-due areas; VR technology allows trainers to keep the learner immersed and present in the moment, thus tapping into a truly experiential learning.

FLAIM Systems Pty Ltd, an Australia-based business focused on delivering next generation training solutions around the world to ensure emergency services and first responder personnel are as best skilled as possible, is following this path. The company was originally formed as a start-up aimed at commercializing the ground-breaking research from Deakin University’s Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation (IISRI).

Its main product, FLAIM Trainer®, is an immersive, Virtual Reality firefighter training simulator with biosensing and real-time scenario analytics that incorporates a patented digital biosensing fabric developed by NTT called hitoeTM. The hitoe material provides real-time data readings of biomedical signals, for example, electrocardiogram or electromyogram signals.

It's not the first VR-based firefighting trainer in existence, but it is the first to use both virtual reality and haptic technology via the HTC Vive Pro in combination with specific scenario software, a special heat suit, and a breathing apparatus to boot. It's the product of a decade of hardware and software research performed at Deakin University in Melbourne, Australia.

The global market for these services is estimated at more than $3 billion.
Image credit: FLAIM Trainer® by FLAIM Systems - Train Virtually, Experience Reality

The FLAIM Systems Pty Ltd Story

In 2017, Deakin University launched a start-up business to share the power of its virtual reality firefighting simulator, the FLAIM Trainer.

FLAIM Systems Pty Ltd was a Geelong-based start-up aimed at commercializing the ground-breaking research from Deakin University’s Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation (IISRI), and Associate Professor James Mullins took on the role of FLAIM Systems Chief Technology Officer.

FLAIM trainer™ and subsequent commercial-ready solutions from IISRI have proven to be a safe, low cost and mobile solution that can simulate a range of fire events and conditions – allowing firefighters to train more, train better, and train anywhere.