A multidisciplinarian platform

Published:  01 October, 2008

Last year the Rotterdam-based company VSTEP successfully launched a new training tool called RescueSim IIM (Industrial Incident Management). This is a virtual scenario based training tool, which enables industrial response teams to exercise in a virtual environment, saving cost and reducing hazards.

VSTEP founder Cristijn Sarvaas explains that the RescueSim computer program has already had success with industrial and municipal firefighters, and it is increasingly being used by major industrial organisations, such as Shell, DSM/Chemelot and the Port of Rotterdam. “Our clients especially appreciate our system’s flexibility and ease of use. It enables the user to train in scenarios that are too difficult, hazardous, or expensive to set up in reality, such as a large storage tank fire,” explains Sarvaas.

The RescueSim IIM training tool offers an immersion training environment that takes students through all the decision making processes of a real situation while at the same time improving leadership capabilities.

Although already deemed to be successful, feedback from users revealed a further need for tackling interoperability issues between different parties such as the facilities’ emergency response team, police, the port authority, and government etc.

In response to these comments Sarvaas and his programming team decided that the platform that was required was a multiplayer version of RescueSim IIM.

In conventional scenario training a key element is the judgement and assessment of situations on the basis of limited or flawed information, explains Sarvaas. “In multidisciplinary training the focus lies on co-operation and communication. What are the consequences of one participant’s actions on another player’s performance and decisions? How does communication influence players’ perception of what is happening?”

VSTEP is currently developing this multiplayer version of RescueSim with Artesis – a consultancy for fire services, as well as the Port of Rotterdam; Safety Region Rotterdam Rijnmond (police, fire ambulance); and the major companies in the port of Rotterdam.
The aim of the parties involved is to create a multidisciplinary platform, in which all participants from different walks of life train together, each doing their own jobs, while interacting with all the other parties involved in the scenario.

Sarvaas comments that the project has been completely funded by the participants of the consortium. In fact, VSTEP recently received a one million euro award from the Ministery of Economic Affairs, both to help take the financial risk off the consortium’s shoulders, and to recognise the system’s potential effectiveness.

 Sarvaas is naturally delighted with the award and sees this as an extremely important development for the petrochemical sector, “Although there are many formal agreements on paper about training at petrochemical facilities, in the end exercising at the actual spot always causes disruptions in the production process. And on the other hand, response teams have to be prepared in case an incident occurs and therefore need to exercise.

“The Safety Region Rotterdam is very advanced in its initiatives, and it has to be, because dense residential areas are situated next to petrochemical facilities in the port area and if an incident occurs, it is usually a large incident. For all parties involved the multidisciplinary version of RescueSim IIM will be a fantastic solution.”

After the initial pilot in the beginning 2009, VSTEP is taking steps towards the national and international launch of the multidisciplinary disaster simulation platform.

The virtual environment in RescueSim IIM is generically petrochemical, and includes tank fires, leaking valves, quays, motorways, and residential areas amongst others, basically elements that are the same the world over,  but with drag and drop capabilities.

In some cases, requirements are so specific that VSTEP has to design a customised environment, but Sarvaas says it isn’t difficult to add to the existing generic environment.  “We don’t dictate to our users on how and what they should practise, as they know best how to conduct exercises. The drag and drop facility enables them to build their own scenarios as well as surroundings. We have had some great responses to this feature.”

RescueSim IIM is also cost effective, as the initial platform has already been developed and the virtual environment and scenarios can be shared. For a reasonable cost organisations can subscribe to RescueSim IIM, and this includes hardware and software, maintenance, support, new scenarios, and as many sessions as are required. “This is a very easy way to get into scenario-based training without having to spend pots of money on an in-house developed simulation system.”

  • Operation Florian

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