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North Texas fire department using high-tech tool to enhance skills, save lives

North Texas fire department using high-tech tool to enhance skills, save lives
North Texas fire department using high-tech tool to enhance skills, save lives 02:19

ALLEN - A North Texas fire department has partnered with a video game maker to create something that could help save lives and property.

It's a first-of-its-kind simulator that helps firefighters do their jobs better. 

A battalion of Allen firefighters entered a burning home. They work as a team, communicating over radios to coordinate the best approach to put out intense flames. 

"Currently, I'm outside the fire," said John Harris, an Allen firefighter. "I just got air in my bottle."

Harris is one of the very few firefighters anywhere training on a multi-player video simulator with a battalion chief in another room calling the shots. 

"We're the only ones that I know of who have developed a full virtual environment," said Harris.

Allen Fire Chief Jonathan Boyd developed this virtual training center called Aries with the help of a video game maker. 

It doesn't replace real-life training on how to handle hoses and where to direct water, but it allows for more repetitive instruction that the chief says is making a difference since it started last summer. 

"This type of training allows us to get repetition, that's realistic enough, so it embeds as a past experience," Boyd said. "So a firefighter can recall it under stress and that's really important.They're able to quickly put out fires; they are able to quickly search houses they're able to keep themselves safe so we have less injuries."

Allen's fire chief says this simulator has been so valuable, it's going to be expanded to include scenarios in office towers, warehouses and urban residential buildings. 

The simulator allows firefighters to use both hoses and axes while making sure they know when they are running out of air. 

These firefighters say it's improved their performance when they head out on real-life calls where even the smallest mistakes can cost lives.  

"I feel way more confident on radios. I feel way more confident, talking to higher-ups about what's going on

"It's a good tool. Like I said earlier it's very good for communication."

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