Presently training departmental and non-profit organizations in disaster management is a costly, disruptive and predominately classroom bound exercise. Educators often find themselves restricted by inefficient educating and learning systems. There is also an alarming shortage of adequate academic material required for disaster education and tutors with a balance of theoretical knowledge and field experience.
Through the intervention of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), a new virtual reality (VR) game was developed to train law enforcement in disaster management.
In the event of a disaster, such as earthquakes and tsunamis, law enforcement departments and non-profit organizations are tasked to perform some of the following actions:
- searching for victims’ remains
- taking pictures of their faces
- record identifying marks such as tattoos
- record personal belongings to establish their identities
- notetaking of any observations
- transporting bodies
In a study conducted by the University of New Mexico, two test groups were evaluated using:
- Virtual Reality headset (video and audio)
- Headset (audio) and computer monitor (video)
Both test groups showed an increase in skill and knowledge about the simulation subject given to them. However, when later evaluated by an expert, the test group using VR showed a substantial increase in knowledge and skills. The conclusion clearly demonstrated that a VR headset had a greater effect opposed to a monitor screen.
Although the use of bulky mannequins can give a realistic hands-on experience with regards to transferring a body into a body bag, VR has the advantage of providing training outside of a classroom environment. Furthermore, VR also allows multiple different scenarios, according to attendees like Nithi Bundhuwong, head of Thailand’s disaster victim identification department.
“In the past, training was based on repeating (the same exercise) again and again, and it was a waste of time and money,” Bundhuwong said.
“Thanks to virtual reality, we can simulate different scenarios from crime scenes to natural disasters”, he added.