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A VR training program built around a disaster simulation helps prepare emergency personnel to respond effectively to mass casualty events.

In the event of a disaster, things have to happen quickly. Well-trained emergency responders are crucial in minimising the consequences of these events. VR plays an increasingly important role in training for these events. Researchers at the Ohio State University College of Medicine developed a VR training program for first responders to mass casualty incidents.

This program simulates a subway system following a bomb detonation. In preparing the simulation, the operator customises the number of casualties, types of injuries, and various environmental factors such as smoke and noise. This makes the software suitable for training both novices and experienced emergency personnel.

VR prepares for emergencies

According to the research team, the main focus of the simulation is teaching SALT triage. In this method, responders start by sorting and assessing survivors. They then make decisions about life-saving measures, treatment, or transport for each case. At the end of the training, users receive an overall performance rating.

Dr. Ashish Panchal, professor of emergency medicine at Ohio State College of Medicine and medical director of Delaware County EMS explains:

“We want to train our EMS clinicians to function at an optimal level in high-risk and high-stress environments, Virtual reality gives us a safe way to optimise training so our professionals are prepared and can confront these challenges the best they possibly can.”

VR for training, AR for deployment

VR can be used to realistically and safely simulate dangerous situations. This allows emergency personnel to practice for disasters without risk to themselves. In the field, augmented reality or mixed reality could play a significant role in the future. Some responders, like police and firefighters, are already using similarly designed programs to help them train for dangerous scenarios.