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New simulator brings virtual training to emergency personnel

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By Caroline Curran, Reporter

BOLIVIA—As a container is being loaded off a ship at a port, it explodes. Billowing black smoke fills the air and emergency responders converge on the scene. Once they arrive, it’s time to get to work—assess the situation and put out the flames.

Then there’s a second explosion.

To practice this scenario in the real world would be difficult, if not impossible, but with a new training simulator recently acquired by Brunswick County Emergency Services, it’s a reality—a virtual reality.

The emergency services department recently received funding through a port grant, and with it purchased a new state-of-the-art training simulator, which allows for responders to train in real-life emergency scenarios without the real-life dangers or consequences.

The Advanced Disaster Management Simulator (ADMS) merges traditional training with virtual reality.

Randy Thompson, Brunswick County Emergency Services director, said the training simulator would be used to train fire and EMS responders as well as law enforcement officers throughout the region.

Brunswick County Emergency Management officials received their first training sessions last week as part of a “train the trainer” program with the simulator’s manufacturers.

Once Brunswick County officials are familiar with the training simulator, they will train area law enforcement, fire and EMS personnel throughout the county and then the region, Thompson said.

The port scenario, which was fashioned as a virtual replica of the Jacksonville, Fla., port, is beneficial for the area, Thompson said, adding New Hanover County and Wilmington officials could train for a disaster scenario at Wilmington’s port.

Officials from the nuclear plant and Sunny Point Military Terminal could also train on the simulator.

Once local officials are trained, “we go out from there, regionally,” Thompson said.

Traditionally, emergency responders have had three methods of training: classroom training, tabletop training and live training.

This simulator enhances emergency officials’ traditional training models, Thompson said.

The simulator, like the real world, has physics-based threats. Wind, for example, will interfere on the simulator just as it would in a real-world scenario.

The training simulator has been in use since 1995 at departments throughout the world, including New York City Emergency Management, the Netherlands and United Kingdom.

Training scenarios include a tanker truck wreck, a school or office building with a shooter and a port explosion.

Everything that would be on scene at any of the scenarios is included in the training scenarios, which can be generic emergency scenarios or specific scenarios created for customers.