5 Cities Try Online Gaming to Train Firefighters

5 Cities Try Online Gaming to Train Firefighters

(Photo by Sean Marshall on Flickr)

Developers at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering, which has created several training programs for firefighters, are working with five city fire departments to create free online game-based training modules for the emergency responders. Departments in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Houston and Bloomington are participating.

As tragic city blazes have changed so have the tools and technology that can be deployed to fight them. By creating an Internet-based tool, designers hope the information can get to as many fire departments around the country as quickly as possible.

“Firefighters cannot train using live fire on a daily, weekly, or even a monthly basis — it’s impractical and too costly,” said Derek Alkonis, director of training for the Los Angeles County Fire Department, in an announcement about the tool.

The system, ALIVE (Advanced Learning through Integrated Visual Environments), will include training on fighting fires in single-family homes, buildings constructed of modern lightweight materials and urban high-rises — particularly when wind is a major risk factor. Training will also include a focus on health that stresses the physiological effects of the job.

“The ALIVE training has allowed our firefighters to benefit from recent research on subjects in the fire service,” said Ulysses Seal, chief of the Bloomington Fire Department. “Without this online training, dissemination of this knowledge would be delayed, as we would have to wait for outside instructors to bring the information to the department.”

The new modules will be released over the next two years.

“Research shows that using ALIVE, which has an 
engaging, game-like format, helps firefighters retain 
the critical safety information taught in trainings,” said Richard Elliot Wener, 
a professor of environmental psychology in the 
Department of Technology, Culture and Society 
at NYU Tandon.

Marielle Mondon is an editor and freelance journalist in Philadelphia. Her work has appeared in Philadelphia City Paper, Wild Magazine, and PolicyMic. She previously reported on communities in Northern Manhattan while earning an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University.

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