Virtual reality to enhance training for managing hazardous materials

Immersive Modular Preparedness Intelligent Tutor (IMPRINT)

A leaky barrel of toxic chemicals is a disaster waiting to happen. Fortunately, first responders and workers with special training know what to do. But will their training translate into the real world?

Charles River Analytics is building VR content to bridge the gap between classroom learning and field exercises for firefighters, emergency responders, and environmental and industrial workers. This new tool helps them arrive on the scene prepared to handle any scenario.

IMPRINT uses virtual reality to bridge the gap between classroom curriculum and field training exercises to help workers safely manage hazardous materials.
IMPRINT uses a narrative about the impact of a recent hurricane to keep trainees engaged and the training modules realistic.

Virtual reality (VR) enhances training programs by allowing teachers and students to practice risky scenarios. With this new educational tool, instructors can deliver their existing course content in a safe, engaging, and effective way

For example, the team is designing a 3D scene in which trainees determine what to do when they encounter a puddle with a live wire.

“We’re giving trainers the tools they need to teach people how to safely do jobs that keep our society going during emergencies.

Dan Duggan,
XR Software Engineer and Co-Principal Investigator for IMPRINT 

What is IMPRINT?

IMPRINT uses a virtual clipboard to keep trainees aware of their next steps without breaking immersion.

Firefighters, emergency responders, and environmental and industrial workers may encounter hazardous materials. Exposure to these materials causes health and safety risks such as chemical burns, illnesses, fires, and explosions.

When there’s a fire or chemical spill, firefighters arrive in their heavy-duty hazardous materials (HAZMAT) suits. How quickly and safely these first responders stop the fire or contain the spill depends on how well their training has prepared them. This training is known as HAZWOPER training.

Firefighters in HAZMAT gear performing operations on a Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority bus. Image credit: Michael Kates

Why it matters

  • Exposure to hazardous materials causes health and safety risks such as chemical burns, illnesses, fires, and explosions.
  • If classroom sessions aren’t engaging or comprehensive, students can be ill-prepared for field training exercises, wasting valuable resources including trainer time and equipment.
  • With traditional training, students may not retain the information after earning certification, which puts themselves and others in danger when encountering hazardous environments later.
  • Trainees can use IMPRINT to apply complex, dangerous procedures in a safe, controlled virtual environment. A library of VR case studies will replace traditional PowerPoint scenario-based activities.
Trainees use flashlights to mark hazards and monitor air quality with a simulated four-gas monitor.

IMPRINT is built on Charles River’s KWYN™ platform, which augments skills through intelligent guidance and coaching. KWYN components can integrate with other software to make training systems more intelligent and interactive, all while reducing the development time of future training across a variety of modalities, including virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR, respectively).

Contact us to learn more about IMPRINT and our other adaptive intelligent training, and health and medical capabilities.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences of the National Institutes of Health under Award Numbers 2R44ES031818, 1R43ES031818, 1R43ES035293, and 1R43OH012496. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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