05-06-2005, 06:08 AM #1
Virtual Firefighting, a Training Tool
By MIKE CRISSEY
Associated Press Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) - Firefighters say there is no easy call,
because they never know what they are going to find.
But they might soon get a better handle on some of the hairiest
situations with the help of a simulator being developed by Carnegie
For the past three years, professor Jesse Schell and teams of
graduate students have been working on "Hazmat: Hotzone," a
networked, multiplayer simulator that's a virtual disaster drill
for dealing with hazardous materials.
It's a cross between a first-person shooter like "Doom,"
"Half-Life" or "Halo" and a role-playing game. It is designed
to fill the gap between classroom or firehouse lectures and mock
disasters, like one involving as many as 14,000 people scheduled
Saturday in Pittsburgh.
"The best instructors explain something and then do a
role-playing scenario," said Schell, a professor at Carnegie
Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center. "Usually the trainees in
the classroom have to imagine it and what they may or may not do.
It is sort of like the instructor is like a dungeon master, leading
them through this."
A prototype of the simulator has been tested by the Fire
Department of New York and the Region 13 Task Force, a group that
includes emergency officials from 13 southwestern Pennsylvania
counties and Pittsburgh. When it's finished, Carnegie Mellon plans
to provide the program free to firefighting training centers
Teams of firefighters sitting at desktop computers and linked
over a network find themselves dropped off for a call - say, a
reported chemical leak in a subway - and have to find and evacuate
The victims show symptoms such as vomiting, facial twitching,
convulsions, bleeding, clammy skin and nausea, which can give
firefighters clues to what chemicals are involved. Firefighters can
look at the victims, talk to them to try to figure out what
happened and tell them to evacuate or follow them to safety.
Instructors set up the virtual disasters by placing victims,
chemical leaks and fires throughout a factory, street corner or
subway. They can also give the victims symptoms that progress over
time. For a chlorine leak, for example, the victims would begin by
coughing, their skin would turn blue, they would begin vomiting and
eventually pass out and die.
Instructors can also change the scenarios on the fly, adding new
chemical leaks, victims or even knocking out one of the
"The more realistic you can make it, the better it is," said
Alan Caldwell, senior adviser for the International Association of
Fire Chiefs and a former volunteer fire chief in Fairfax County,
Va. "You're obviously not going to release some type of a
hazardous material just to find out if people get it by dropping in
their tracks. But as close as you can come to the real thing, the
better it is."
Caldwell called firefighters "good visual learners."
"They do it by hands-on and by repetition and that's what
training is all about. Because you have to train the way you are
going to play," Caldwell said.
In a report a year after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the
federation noted that most of the nation's first-responders -
firefighters, police officers and paramedics - felt they didn't
have enough training to handle a terrorist attack involving
chemical, biological or radiological weapons.
Video games are a natural training tool, said Kay Howell, vice
president for information technology for the Federation of American
The U.S. Army and the Federal Aviation Administration, for
example, already use video game-like simulators to train soldiers
and airline pilots and save money.
The federation has advocated the development of video games to
train first responders to deal with hazard materials situations and
approached Carnegie Mellon to see if the concept would work.
"Many of them are highly addictive," Howell said. "They do a
good job of training someone at a level and testing them and there
is good feedback. Generally you know if you have done something
right or wrong."
On the Net:
Hazmat:Hotzone Web site: http://www.etc.cmu.edu/projects/hazmat/
Federation of American Scientists:
International Association of Fire Chiefs:
http://www.iafc.org/home/index.aspProudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
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On the web at www.section2wildfire.com
05-06-2005, 05:00 PM #2
- Join Date
- Nov 2004
hmm...thats kinda cool
05-06-2005, 10:12 PM #3
- Join Date
- Mar 2005
Awesome idea!2005 Pontiac Wave 5 Hatch
Pontiac... built for drivers
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