NIST developing virtual reality training tool for firefighters
To learn how to fight a fire, say those who work in this dangerous profession, you have to train in an actual blaze. But how do you safely prepare for that first blaze or fire situations that you've never seen before?
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is developing a virtual reality simulation of fire situations that will enable fire professionals to demonstrate how life-threatening conditions can develop in structures and to test firefighting tactics on computers without risk to life and limb.
To build the most realistic physics-based computer fire simulations to date, NIST experts are reworking the agency's fire modeling software--known as the Fire Dynamic Simulator (FDS)--and fire imaging program--known as Smokeview. Refinements to FDS will increase the system's ability for simulating the smoke, hot air and other gas flow caused by fire, wind, ventilation and structural conditions. The upgrade also will improve data processing, yielding speedier calculations that will permit even the most complex fires (such as a multistory or multibuilding event) to be portrayed.
NIST will be working with firefighter instructors to develop a simulation of all of the possible outcomes for different fire scenarios used in training. These will be incorporated into a software package, enabling users to change a simulation with the click of a mouse. Immediately, firefighters will be able to learn the ramifications of actions such as opening a window, closing a door or focusing a hose spray in a certain direction. Enhancement of fire-related images, such as picturing "smoke" realistically on the computer screen (instead of denoting it symbolically with contours, dots or vectors) will add to "real" feel.
For a description of NIST's current FDS and Smokeview software packages, see "Understanding Fire and Smoke Flow Through Modeling and Visualization" in the July-August 2003 issue of IEEE Computer Graphics and Applications. For more information on the virtual reality project, contact Glenn Forney, (301) 975-2313, email@example.com.