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Comparing the effectiveness of fire extinguisher virtual reality and video training

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Fire is a major hazard in built environments. Fires in buildings cause fatalities, serious injuries and tremendous damage. Most fires can be extinguished in the early stages of the fire’s development, with the right equipment and correct use of the equipment. However, as there can be as little as a few minutes between a fire starting and very dire consequences, rapid and correct responses are critical. Implementing effective training solutions is necessary to enable members of the public, who are not experts in fire safety, to use a fire extinguisher correctly. This can assist to build resilience to fires. In recent decades, virtual reality (VR) has aroused the fire safety community’s attention, as a smart, safe and effective training method compared to the traditional methods of lectures, non-interactive videos, and brochures. VR has been used for training for fire emergency preparedness and to collect data about evacuee decision-making, but VR has rarely been applied to a fully immersive training experience about fire extinguishers operation steps. Fire extinguisher operation steps are Pull, Aim, Squeeze and Sweep. Each step is critical to quickly extinguish a fire. This paper compares fire extinguisher training using a VR simulation with a non-interactive training video and evaluates the trainees learning of a fire extinguisher’s basic operation steps, in terms of knowledge acquisition, retention of information and change of self-efficacy. The results showed that the VR trainees scored better than video trainees, in terms of knowledge acquisition, even if the same trend was observed for long term retention of information. It was also observed that VR training provided a higher increment of self-efficacy right after the training. The VR group participants had maintained the same level of self-efficacy even 3–4 weeks after the training, while the video group had shown a significant drop of self-efficacy.

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The authors are grateful to MAMMOTH VR and HONE Ltd. for providing the license of the PASS training application. Dr Lovreglio thanks the College of Science of Massey University for funding this research through the MURF fund (Grant No. SREF). Finally Dr Lovreglio would like to thank Phil Jackson (EvacuationNow) and the Fire Protection Association (NZ Chapter) for helping with the data collection.

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Correspondence to Ruggiero Lovreglio.

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Ethical approval

All objectives of the experiment were achieved with low ethics level, according to the Massey University’s Code of Ethics. Participants were informed (1) about the purpose of the study, (2) that they had the right to stop the experiment at any time without providing any reason and (3) that they can stop the experiment if they felt sick or any discomfort. All the training sessions were performed under the supervision of a researcher, in case there was any emergency.

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A Participant information sheet and consent form were signed by all participants before undertaking the VR or video training.

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Lovreglio, R., Duan, X., Rahouti, A. et al. Comparing the effectiveness of fire extinguisher virtual reality and video training. Virtual Reality 25, 133–145 (2021).

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