By RYAN O’DONNELL
Hands-on training instructors have long searched for a way to train without the unpredictability of fire, especially when it comes to beginner students. In addition to instructors’ qualms about introducing new firefighters to the volatile nature of fire, introducing live flames into burn towers requires the approval of environmental agencies as well as compliance with local, state, and national regulations. Many instructors are hard-pressed to meet these conditions, especially when using an outdated structure. Consequently, many departments possess an acquired structure or burn tower that is no longer suitable for live fire.
At the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC), instructors approached BullEx to develop a way to conduct hands-on firefighter training in acquired structures across the city of Indianapolis without live fire. The instructors were also looking for a way to create realistic but nonhazardous fire conditions in drills where the presence of fire is an important element but fire suppression isn’t the primary objective.
As a result, BullEx developed the Attack Digital Fire Training System (Attack). Attack was developed and tested for two years at conferences including FDIC and in departments around the United States. Feedback gathered from the instructors and trainees was instrumental in making the product as effective and as user-friendly as possible. The result of years of development and collaboration, this revolutionary training system allows instructors to conduct training in areas where live fire isn’t possible and to better prepare for both live-burn training and real fire situations.
At the heart of Attack is a waterproof panel that features five thermal sensors and generates interactive digital flames and sound effects to create a realistic and interactive seat of fire. Multiple panels can be connected wirelessly to create fire extension scenarios. The panel is portable and includes a weighted base with a refillable tank that works to keep the panel stable and upright during intense training scenarios. The tank can be quickly filled with a hoseline, and it collapses for easy storage and transportation. The entire system can be set up or packed up in less than five minutes to allow instructors to change the seat of fire between evolutions, further challenging trainees. Attack is available with an integrated BullEx Smoke Generator, which is housed in a water- and shock-resistant case.
|Photo courtesy of BullEx.|
Attack’s fire growth and smoke conditions are based on fire research data provided by nationally recognized labs. The Smoke Generator produces smoke that is consistent with the size of the fire and the time since its ignition. Once the fire is started, it will grow and extend to additional panels while producing realistic volumes of smoke.
Instructors using Attack can completely customize each training evolution they conduct. The standard remote controls the fire’s class and difficulty. Smoke production, flame flare-up, and sound volume can also be controlled manually, if desired.
With Attack, instructors can go over the nuances of firefighting that cannot be done once a live fire is introduced into a scenario. Hose stream manipulation, nozzle control, team coordinating, and emergency procedures can now all be taught safely and repeatedly. This allows the novice to gain some basic muscle memory before being exposed to actual live fire. Using Attack allows instructors to train on fundamentals so that they can make the most of live-fire burns. This is especially important when introducing new firefighters to fire and smoke conditions in a safe environment.
Adding realism to drills such as vent-enter-search, rapid intervention team operations, and search and rescue is possible with digital fire training. Instructors can challenge trainees to maintain situational awareness; identify the location of the fire; and, if not extinguish, confine the fire while other critical operations take place. Additionally, instructors have the option to run evolutions without self-contained breathing apparatus so they can more easily communicate and teach firefighters while in the middle of a scenario.
You can change the location and characteristics of the fire between evolutions to prevent training from becoming too predictable. For example, the digital panel can be moved between evolutions during initial fire attack drills, so trainees must truly search for a fire when advancing their hoselines into the building.
Attack’s patented digital technology allows instructors to use multiple panels that connect wirelessly to create fire extension scenarios. Wireless connectivity allows instructors to create scenarios such as balloon-frame building fires, where basement fires extend into the attic. By placing panels in both the basement and the attic, trainees can learn to recognize the tell-tale signs of fires in balloon-frame constructions and attack the fire properly.
Attack makes it possible for instructors to transform how they conduct their training to create a more effective and realistic learning environment for their trainees. When faced with today’s environmental regulations and budget constraints, digital fire is the solution to many organizations’ training problems.
RYAN O’DONNELL is the president of BullEx. O’Donnell was a decorated chief officer responsible for developing fire prevention programs, overseeing training operations, and acting as an incident commander at emergency scenes.
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