Polytechnic Institute of New York University to Release Firefighter Training Tool

Researchers at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University created the game-based computer program to educate, train, and disseminate critical information to both career and volunteer squads.

According to a release, Advanced Learning through Integrated Visual Environments features short, interactive training modules that incorporate game techniques and simulate the real-time critical decision-making process. Applications for mobile devices are also available for download.

ALIVE was funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and led by NYU-Poly in partnership with the Fire Department of New York, the Chicago Fire Department and the fire departments of Bloomington, Eden Prairie, and Eagan, Minn.

“We were stunned that the firefighters did so much better with ALIVE than in the classroom, it is rare that results are this strong and consistent,” said NYU-Poly Professor of Environmental Psychology Richard Wener, one of the leaders of the research project.

Working through the interactive ALIVE segments, firefighters learn more than just how to fight a fire: They learn the science behind the fires. Achieving an understanding of fire dynamics is of paramount importance to firefighters since the characteristics of modern residential construction, including large, open layouts, increased fuel loads from synthetic materials and furnishings, and minimal fire resistance of structural components, make modern residential fires far different from those of past generations.

“Many factors contribute to the significant number of deaths and injuries, but perhaps most troubling is the fact that many firefighters were likely not aware of advancements in firefighting methods that could have changed these tragic outcomes,” said Prabodh Panindre, senior research scientist at NYU-Poly.

Two modules of ALIVE, “Wind-Driven High-Rise Fires” and “Fires in Residential Lightweight Construction,” have been released to the nationwide firefighter community free of charge. The iOS and Android versions of this training are also available.

ALIVE researcher Sunil Kumar, professor of mechanical engineering at NYU-Poly and dean of engineering at NYU Abu Dhabi, said: “By way of example, the Fire Department of New York City is so large that it would take an entire year and several million dollars to have every member take just one full day of classroom training. Using ALIVE as an ancillary training tool can result in enormous acceleration of the training schedule as well as significant cost savings.

“Those cost savings are far from the most important benefit of using ALIVE. ALIVE allows speedy dissemination of knowledge to fire departments big and small, to those with substantial training budgets or none, and offers a mechanism for the rapid training of new interventions to the fire community across the nation.”

The modular format of this training allows firefighters to pause and resume training at their convenience. If a call comes in during training, firefighters would be able to respond and then pick up where they left off upon their return. If necessary, they can review earlier sections and repeat what they don’t understand. Unlike classroom training, users can repeat the training as many times as they desire.

The Polytechnic Institute of New York University is an affiliated institute of New York University, and will become its School of Engineering in January 2014.