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Firefighter
training programs:
How virtual reality
helps improve
training

Author: Adam Kimmel

Firefighter training programs are a critical part of the job for those fighting fires. Firefighters need real-world experience, and as a result, departments are constantly looking for safer and more effective training methods. One tool that has emerged as a means of supporting firefighter training programs is virtual reality (VR). The expansion of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the ongoing rollout of 5G should help to create the landscape VR needs for mass adoption in this space.

This critical approach will be able to transform training methods while helping to improve safety at the same time. In addition, VR—and its augmented reality (AR) counterpart—also address low visibility conditions.

Components of firefighter training programs

Physical conditioning isn't just good for a firefighter's health; it's a way of life. The Candidate Physical Ability Test (CPAT) is the standard for determining whether the applicant can handle the physical demands of firefighting. Created through a joint effort by the International Association of Fire Fighters and the International Association of Fire Chiefs, the CPAT consists of eight events that the candidate must complete in 10 minutes, 20 seconds:

  • Stair climb
  • Hose drag
  • Equipment carry
  • Ladder raise and extension
  • Forcible entry
  • Maze search
  • Victim drag
  • Ceiling breach and pull

Of course, there's more to the job than physical strength and conditioning. Firefighters have to make quick decisions, often under extreme stress, and often with lives on the line. For example, firefighters need to be prepared to move quickly and safely when vehicle extrication can help save lives. Preparing for those circumstances is where AR and VR technology can play a critical role.

Applications and benefits of firefighter VR training

Heat, water pressure, fatigue, stress and urgency can attack the firefighter simultaneously during an emergency response. The danger and expense of real-world firefighter training programs sometimes prevent trainees from a real-life experience. VR should help bridge the gap, getting the firefighters a closer experience.

In addition to being more cost effective versus the expense of traditional training, four key benefits that firefighter VR training could provide include:

  1. Creating a safe environment with 360-degree views
  2. On-demand training anytime at any location
  3. Creating accurate 3D representations of physical structures in an environment
  4. Preserving gear and equipment for real emergencies

How can VR and AR offer superior training?

VR/AR-assisted training should be able to create a reality-like environment for the user, better aligning the module with real-world events. The dynamic nature of the technology responds to the firefighter's behaviors as they would see in the real world.

While nothing compares to an actual fire situation, firefighter training programs using VR and AR can improve the quality of training. Firefighters could view the conditions created in the simulated mode independently, reducing the need to have another teammate present for the training. This should encourage the user to act without the benefit of more experienced firefighters leading the way. 

What network capabilities does VR training require?

Like any technology that interacts with human reaction time, offering virtual firefighter training programs on a high-powered network is essential. 5G networks, which can offer low latency and high bandwidth, could help support VR/AR-aided training.

Verizon has been serving public safety agencies for decades, with a strong portfolio with innovative solutions and support. The Verizon Frontline portfolio offers an advanced network and technology for first responders. It’s built for 5G, which will help enable first responders and others on the frontline to train effectively in new ways.

Learn more about Verizon 5G technologies for first responders at Verizon 5G Innovations.