Red Cross implements VR technology for disaster response training

Published 05 April 2019, 04:49

Training for refugee camps and high-risk disaster hot spots such as Indonesia has long relied on heavy mannequin models.

But a former Swiss army officer who became a video game enthusiast has recruited graphic designers from the game industry to help create the first ICRC virtual reality unit in Bangkok, which will enable the team to reach a wider audience.

"If you do training in the classroom, like how to put a body in a body bag, it's very good because you can have weight," said Christian Rouffaer, head of the VR team.

Instead, the new simulation is "not weighty, but what you will have is all risk factors" which complicate search and rescue missions, such as the presence of animals and hanging electrical cables, he said.

Virtual reality is increasingly sought for in skills training, from hospitals to industry. Disaster zone rescue is the latest from a series of VR simulations from the Red Cross.

Trainees have been able to visit overcrowded prison cells to check conditions - one of the group's global mandates - or plunge into the chaotic world of refugee camps to assess the needs of those displaced by the conflict.

Countries such as Thailand, which lack large budgets for quick relief responses, want to take advantage of VR cost savings measures.

The head of the Thai disaster victims identification department, Mr. Nithi Bundhuwong, attended the training at Chonburi and was very enthusiastic about the virtual crime scene immersion program.

"In the past, training was based on repetition, and it was a waste of time and money," he said.

"Thanks to virtual reality, we can simulate various scenarios", from crime scenes to chaos in natural disasters, he added.

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