In a partnership with Augmented Training Systems, a local startup, the City of Austin plans to develop a couple of virtual reality training programs for first responders.
The focus of the new training methods is ‘high acuity, low frequency’ events that usually the personnel train for, but do not frequently respond to. Mass casualty events and the use of the ambulance bus being a few examples.
The initial development of the program began through a public-private partnership between the City’s Communication and Technology Management (CTM) department, ATCEMS, and a grant from US Ignite more than a year ago.
“A first responder will get trained on these skills and then not respond to a disaster for a number of years. A ‘just-in-time’ VR training allows us to refresh those skills quickly, without needing the physical equipment or set-up. We can do the training at the station, or at home, and can repeat the training over and over,” stated commander Keith Noble of Austin Travis County Emergency Medical Services (ATCEMS).
Noble also said that VR training is even more relevant in the present context of the pandemic.
“During the Covid-19 crisis, in-person events and hands-on training have mostly been cancelled. For first responders, it’s not an option to postpone training. We have to be ready to respond to a crisis, no matter what,” he said. “This technology is a good fit for today’s environment where we’re doing everything virtually. It’s safe and it’s effective.”
CTM data architect, Ted Lehr, said, “Part of my job with the City is to focus on emerging technologies like virtual reality and artificial intelligence and to identify opportunities for partnerships and resources within the community. In this case, I was able to bring together researchers from Texas State University and ATCEMS using this grant opportunity to introduce VR as a training option,” he said.
The collaboration also resulted in the birth of Augmented Training Systems. The startup has developed two virtual training modules, a just-in-time training on the ambulance bus and mass casualty event training with the support of ATCEMS.
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