April 2019 Vol. 74 No. 4


Experts Partner on VR training for First Responders to Natural Gas Emergencies

Virtual Reality software and energy R&D experts are jointly developing VR training for first responders to natural gas leak calls.

To improve emergency response effectiveness and coordination, the training will focus on aspects of investigating the leak, identifying and eliminating ignition sources, securing the location, evacuation, ventilation, communicating with emergency personnel, and identifying changing conditions that utility operations and fire department personnel might face. The emergency response simulation will combine multi-user functionality, randomized potential hazards, and simulated consequences.

Partners include PIXO VR, [Royal Oak, Mich.] a Royal Oak, Mich., VR training provider recently spotlighted by CNBC as a leader in its field. Working with PIXO VR as a subject matter expert on the interactive learning experience is leading energy research, development and training organization GTI.

“GTI supports the energy industry in many ways and training is a critical part of what we offer,” said Ray Deatherage, GTI senior program manager for Energy Delivery. “When responding to gas leak emergencies, enhanced VR training like this will better prepare first responders to be more effective and efficient with identifying and responding to hazardous conditions.”

The training development will be funded by Operations Technology Development (OTD), a Des Plaines, Ill., based consortium of 26 natural gas distributors in the U.S. and Canada that account for 60 percent of all gas meters in North America.

Supporting OTD’s commitment to safe and reliable infrastructure operations, the training will include a fully immersive 3D simulation of a residential neighborhood, which trainees must search through to find and respond to a natural gas leak. Once completed, the training will be made available for licensing to OTD members and the broader industry.

To keep trainees engaged, a wide variety of situational and environmental details can be randomized with each experience—everything from neighborhood appearance, to the location and concentration of gas leaks and whether they are above or below ground, to the presence of vehicles and pedestrians and even wind direction.

“Every experience will pose unique challenges requiring different behaviors and action,” said PIXO VR CEO Sean Hurwitz. “Shifting gas clouds, ignited or unignited leaks—no two trainings will be the same unless the customer wants to repeat a skill or scenario to perfection.”

Hardware partner HP Inc. will provide a VR backpack that enables trainees to navigate the simulated residential environment without cumbersome tethers, allowing for a more immersive experience and greater range of physical motion.

According to GTI and PIXO VR, the natural gas emergency training will be available for licensing by the third quarter this year.

pixovr.com; gti.energy

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