VR replicates chaos and challenges mass casualty events to prepare first responders | News

(ST. JOSEPH, MO.) In a disaster with many casualties, every second counts. Unfortunately, these tragedies are happening more frequently, with the FBI reporting a nearly 100% increase in incidents involving active shooters since 2017.

Traditionally, training first responders to deal with these disasters has required significant space, time and resources, but a new program gives trainees a realistic look at the challenges they can face during these events simply by donning a headset.

It’s not the latest virtual reality game, but paramedic Joshua Cooper is actually going through mass casualty disaster training. “We don’t see that every day, but if you find yourself in a situation like this you want to be prepared to be able to treat as many people as possible.”

Traditionally, this training has presented many logistical challenges and often involved actors, unresponsive mannequins, and unrealistic settings. So emergency physicians at Ohio State University College of Medicine worked with designers to create a program that advances first responders into realistic scenarios through virtual reality.

Scenes can be customized by varying the number of victims, their injuries, and real-world distractions, and artificial intelligence allows the trainee to interact with patients who respond according to their condition.

“When I take someone’s heart rate, this controller vibrates in sync with the heart rate, which we can input into the system,” Cooper said.

When training is complete, the system provides an instant assessment, and if tragedy strikes close to home, first responders are ready to act quickly to save as many lives as possible.

The virtual reality training program is now being used in several municipal fire and emergency services and continues to expand across the country. In the future, developers and medical experts hope to adapt the program to improve active shooters and hemostasis practice in places like schools and churches.


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