HFSC Offers New Virtual Reality Resource
The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) is taking home fire safety education to the next level with a new virtual reality kit, including a 360-degree house fire flashover and sprinkler comparison video created with actual fire footage. Thanks to state-of-the-art cinematic technology, viewers can experience the fires without and with an installed sprinkler as if they were inside the burning house. They can watch flames and smoke from any angle and hear the fire crackle and smoke alarms activate. In the video without a fire sprinkler, viewers will see flashover occur in real-time and watch how fast the flames and smoke spread. When they watch the video with an installed fire sprinkler, they’ll learn how the high heat from the fire activates the water flow and see the sprinkler quickly control the blaze and minimize smoke spread.
The virtual reality video can be viewed on-demand at no cost on HFSC’s website. Viewers using a computer can move their mouse or trackpad to look all around inside the active fire rooms. Turning a tablet or other smart device will achieve the same 360 views of the fires.
Immersive Formal Education
For a more immersive educational experience, HFSC will provide members of the fire service with an advanced HFSC virtual reality kit. The kit includes high-tech headsets where viewers can experience the two fires as a realistic 3D home fire scene. The videos can be presented to target audiences in individual or group settings. The kit is ideal for fire service education outreach to any local stakeholder involved in the decision to protect new homes with fire sprinklers, such as builders, developers, planners, building officials, and water purveyors.
FEMA-Funded Virtual Reality Kit
HFSC produced the virtual reality video in 2021 with a seed grant from State Farm. HFSC was later awarded a FEMA Fire Prevention & Safety Grant to build on that initial production, promote it to the fire service and the public, and purchase a set of the Immersive Kits in order to work directly with the fire service to present and evaluate the effectiveness of the virtual reality experience.
“This grant award will allow HFSC to roll out this innovative new resource to the fire service and offer guidance so they can educate their target stakeholders and advocate for home fire sprinklers in local new-construction homes,” says HFSC President Lorraine Carli. “We are grateful for this funding, which is an example of the power of public-private partnerships that enhance local community risk reduction.”
HFSC is partnering with U.S. fire departments in the grant-funded formal evaluation. With guidance from HFSC team leaders, these departments will plan and present the virtual reality education resource as a method to mitigate the home fire problem in their jurisdictions, based on the high-risk local populations they’ve identified as part of their community risk reduction work.
The grant allowed for an initial purchase of portable, reusable, Immersive Virtual Reality Education Kits, each containing 15 headsets and a presentation laptop. Fire educators will have the option to present the video to all viewers at one time or individually. HFSC is working with the kit vendor to offer a turnkey, at-cost purchase option available to any interested fire department/safety advocate. The online virtual reality video will be offered universally at no cost.
A Better Side-by-Side With Virtual Reality Kit
“Because our specialized crew shot the 360-degree video footage during live home fires, this groundbreaking virtual reality resource provides authentic education that can replicate the impact of live side-by-side demonstrations,” Carli says. To extend reach, the online version can be added to fire department websites, shared via social media accounts, built into PowerPoint presentations, run on video monitor loops, and sent via email.
While public fire demonstrations have been effective as community events for many years, they are not feasible for every fire department. Many jurisdictions have environmental regulations and fees pertaining to burns, and there are costs to build, store and transport side-by-side units. Additionally, it can be difficult to get targeted stakeholders to attend public events. With this new virtual reality education, fire educators can bring dramatic and memorable home fire side-by-sides directly to their local stakeholders using the free online video or with a one-time purchase of the kit option.
Fire departments are encouraged to use the new video as part of their community risk reduction outreach. They can visit HFSC’s website to download the video and share the link. The new video will also be featured during Home Fire Sprinkler Week May 15-21, 2022. Consumers and all those who plan to build new homes are encouraged to view the video at no cost at myhomefiresprinkler.org.
Celebrating Over 25 Years of Education
Since the 1970s, when America Burning was published, fire safety organizations encouraged home fire sprinkler protection as an essential fire mitigation strategy. But no organization had the capacity to make that goal a priority. To fill that gap, the presidents of the American Fire Sprinkler Association (AFSA), National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) pooled their resources in 1996, creating HFSC to focus exclusively on home fire sprinkler education. The coalition has evolved from the small group the founders envisioned into a national 501c(3) organization working in the U.S. and Canada. HFSC is led by a diverse and active board of directors that includes its three founding members. HFSC’s mission is solely educational, and its materials are available to everyone at no cost through HFSC’s website at homefiresprinkler.org.