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Training Not Just Fun and Games for Firefighters

MIDLAND – It may have looked like they were playing video games on the job, but 12 Midland firefighters recently took part in a unique training opportunity. The training took place over a few days in September. Chief Kevin Foster said the XVR software program utilized is similar to a video game.

“It’s an incident command-and-control training program designed to structure how an incident happens, how a department would respond and how we perform within that structure providing safety for both the public as well as firefighters,” said Foster.

Participants look at tasks that need to be completed and hazards that may exist, he explained. “As the incident officer arrives on scene, there are a series of things they will have to consider,” he said. “What this program does is it draws that from them so they can visually look at themselves arriving at the scene. You look like you’re sitting in the truck, you see the truck come up the street, stop at the scene and make sure the truck is positioned properly. You can actually walk around the structure and complete a size-up of the situation.”

The goal of the training exercise, he said, is to focus on the first five minutes of three different scenarios: a structure fire, a motor-vehicle collision, and a hazardous-materials situation. “It’s interactive in that they can change the pieces of the scenario,” Foster said. “As they were doing the initial size-up … the incident could be changing so you could see fire growth or a plume of an odour release.”

Don Hebner, the department’s training officer, was one of 12 staff members who participated in the training. “The XVR system was nice because it brought in a reality without having to go on scene. It allows you to sharpen your skills,” he said. “When you roll up to a scene, it sets the scenario. We always say what you do in your first five minutes dictates what you are going to do over the next five hours.” Hebner added this type of training is likely the way of the future, as it features a real-life scenario that can be customized. Foster acknowledged the program isn’t 100 per cent realistic, but said it’s as close as one can get without actually confronting a scenario in real life. “We don’t always have the opportunity to have a burning building and have someone go out and command an incident around that,” he said. “Although the scenarios we used for the training are major incidents, what you apply there you also apply to minor incidents.”

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