Today, simulators are being used in an ever-increasing number of areas, particularly when real-life training would be overcomplicated, excessively expensive, ecologically untenable, or simply too dangerous. Emergency responses by the fire services most definitely fall into this category.
With this in mind, Rosenbauer is an example of a company that has considerably expanded its driver training range. Apart from the Panther tactic simulator for airport fire services, which has been in successful use for a number of years, a system for municipal firefighters called the Emergency Response Driving Simulator (ERDS) has now been put into operation.
Both systems facilitate the risk-free and highly authentic training of conduct in particularly problematic or unusually dangerous and stressful situations during the drive to an operational scene. Moreover, due to the latest technology, the simulators also offer absolutely realistic handling and surroundings that are accurately represented down to the smallest detail. This allows the training of widely divergent response drive scenarios in order that, above all, the correct reactions in critical traffic situations are learned. Simulator training enables fire truck equipment operators and drivers to obtain routine in those situations, which for the reasons already mentioned cannot be practiced on the road.
Hundreds of Scenarios
Training drives using the ERDS can be designed in a highly individual manner. As soon as the driver switches on the blue light and the Martins horn, the rest of the traffic reacts to the special rights of the emergency vehicle. Every type of weather and sudden changes in conditions can all be emulated, as well as differing light levels and night driving in fog, for example, increasing danger of black ice, operations with differing payloads such as an outward trip with full extinguishing agent tanks and the return journey with empty tanks.
In addition, the reactions of other road users can be integrated into the training. A child that suddenly runs into the road; a cyclist, who when turning, disappears into the driver’s blind spot; a bus that leaves a stop without indicating, as well as ill-disciplined drivers in front of a red light or in a jam who suddenly close the emergency corridor. Furthermore, the truck driver’s own conduct can be analysed with regard to errors such as turning without indicating because the vehicle is being driven with blue light. Simulator training represents special instruction, as the participants, who as a prerequisite must be able to drive a truck, learn how to react in exceptional circumstances.
The ERDS driver’s cab is identical to a Mercedes Benz Actros with all the original controls and indicators, as well as automatic transmission. The imitation cabin is mounted on a moving platform fitted with three electrically driven spindle actuators, which means that the cab moves as if during a real drive. Jolting due to collisions with the pavement or vehicle movements, for example, due to lane changes are simulated accordingly and can be felt. The image of the roads and freeways, irrespective of whether in urban or rural surroundings, is projected onto the windshield and side windows, while TFT monitors replace the rear view mirrors.
At present, the ERDS offers 120 kilometres of rural roads with differing widths and gradients, bridges, underpasses and railway crossings. Another 60 kilometres, which run through various residential and industrial areas, are available along with 40 kilometres of freeway with access roads and exit slipways, tunnels, roadhouses and gas stations, as well as all the related signalling systems. These stretches can be combined at will along with the events/scenarios that have to be dealt with during the drive.
Driving and Extinguishing
While the ERDS serves operational response training, the Panther Tactical Simulator is used both for practicing the drive across the airport and the subsequent extinguishing attack. The grounds of the airport including the runways, access roads, apron, tower, arrival and departure lounges, and firehouses are shown in every detail. Any airport, complete with all its features, can be fed into the system along with various types of aircraft with the Airbus A380-800, Boeing 737, Boeing 747-400 and MD-11 available as standard.
As is the case with the ERDS, the road holding and handling of the Panther in the simulator alters in line with the payload and the surface. The extinguishing technology is guided by the original control elements and all the monitors (front, roof and extinguishing arm) are equipped for one-hand operation and able to emit all the extinguishing agents carried on board. First and foremost, the correct positioning of the vehicle for the extinguishing of a burning aircraft or engine is practiced, along with the choice of the correct extinguishing agent, the optimum throw distance and the precise manipulation of the piercing tool. The latter is employed to penetrate vehicle and container walls in order to extinguish fires from the inside. The operator can actuate a diversity of fire scenarios and smoke, flames, explosions and turbine re-ignition are all possible.
Cutting Edge Technology
The Panther simulator consists of an original cabin with an eight-metre diameter 210 degree projection surface in front that has a height of four meters. The simulator also includes a separate instructor station from which the various operational situations can be programmed and the training guided. The projectors are fitted with edge blending software and produce a seamless and very bright panorama image measuring 56 square metres.
The driver is confronted head on by all the operational events on the huge projection surface. The two main mirrors are replaced by monitors and thus provide the driver with all-round vision. This means that when he or she looks out of the vehicle to the left, right or above, the surroundings are visible just as in a real operational response.
Stationary and Mobile Solutions
Rosenbauer offers simulator courses at both its training centre in Leonding in Austria and directly at fire services and other emergency organisations. The ERDS can be simply packed onto a swap body vehicle and then set up at the customer’s premises. In addition to training from Rosenbauer’s instructors, both simulators can be rented or purchased. For example, in June 2014, a Panther Tactical Simulator was put into operation at Kuala Lumpur Airport.
Basically, simulator training contributes to learning how to correctly assess dangerous situations and the rapid defusing of potential accident situations, the early recognition of the intentions of other road users and their accurate interpretation, the clearly recognisable expression of the driver’s own intentions in traffic for others, the proper handling of stress during emergency responses and in the final analysis, a reduction in the number of blue light accidents.
The major advantage of simulator training lies in its lack of risk and capacity for reproducibility at limited cost. There is no wear and tear, extinguishing agent use, or vehicle damage even if accidents are frequent during the training phase. Moreover, most importantly, driving practice is obtained along with an intuitive ability to react quickly and correctly in situations, which as a rule can otherwise not be practiced.
For more information, go to www.rosenbauer.com