Firefighters use virtual reality for training

The program is not a replacement for field training but does give firefighters feedback when they complete tasks
Published: Feb. 15, 2022 at 7:30 PM CST
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MERRILL, Wis. (WSAW) - Every call to respond to a fire is a dangerous task. That’s why fire departments have started using virtual reality to enhance their training. It allows them to practice responding to intense situations without the pressure.

North Central Technical College partnered with GTI, a technology company, to host the virtual reality firefighter training. Students trained with firefighters from Merrill and Wausau fire departments.

”The closer you got to a fire you were able to hear it crackling. They had background noises so you heard birds chirping or different background noises that may be distractions,” said John Kraegenbrink, firefighter/paramedic, Merrill Fire Department.

He said as real as it felt, it can’t replace training in the field.

”Truly being one on one in a full dress scenario is a totally different experience,” said Kraegenbrink.

For students at North Central Technical College, it’s the next closest thing to field training.

“We found it super important to include virtual reality as a simulation in training and education especially during the pandemic where we are seeing reduced opportunities,” said Shane Heilmann, School of Public Safety Dean, NTC.

Heilmann said many students couldn’t go to clinical sites like they normally would attend. Heilmann said even though it can’t fully replace those experiences, it can help them when they enter the workforce.

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