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"Calamityville" Allows Simulation of Traumas

FAIRBORN, OHIO - Two SUVs overturned off East Xenia Drive Thursday, ejecting their occupants.

One passenger had a severed limb; another suffered a collapsed lung. All needed immediate medical care.

Paramilitary first responders were soon scrambling on the grounds of the nearby former cement plant to treat victims and helicopter them to a nearby hospital.

Except the experience wasn't real. Not altogether, anyway. It was a training exercise at Wright State University's National Center for Medical Readiness, also known as "Calamityville."

Participants were training for their real jobs. But they were also helping to demonstrate a new military technology that combines live and computer-simulated experiences.

In essence: The group was helping validate a technology that weaves computer-simulated virtual environments with real action to help first responders measure how well they're doing their jobs.

On one wall of a Calamityville meeting room, computer monitors tracked the pulse and respiratory rate of the mannequins the Kentucky Air National Guard pararescuers treated, including one mannequin that weighed 240 all-too-real pounds. If the pararescue team fails, the accident victims "die," their pulses flat-lining, but only on the computer monitors.

"It's a new world, isn't it?" said Pam Boyers, a University of Toledo researcher helping oversee the weeklong training, dubbed "Fortis Angel."

The idea is to save lives and money and sharpen lifesaving skills along the way. If tracking by computer monitors and computer tablets can help emergency workers respond better, then the exercise is worth it, said John "Jazz" Jannazo, senior director of U.S. Air Force programs for Cubic Defense Applications, one of several private companies participating in the exercise.

"We're adding coaching right into the event," Jannazo said.

For several years, military and private researchers have sought to perfect technology meshing rescue work with virtual reality, said Kristen Barrera, who oversees the government side of the project for the 711th Human Performance Wing, based at nearby Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. It's called "live virtual constructive training."

After each emergency, pararescuers and their colleagues need to sit down and objectively weigh their performance, Barrera said. Computer tracking as well as carefully placed cameras, microphones and other equipment help them do that, she said.

The military is working with companies to develop an Android app that will help them in their training, highlighting key data.

"They can see what they're doing well, and what they're doing badly," Barrera said. "You can also go back and watch your actions. They didn't have that before."

The pararescuers are "true athletes," Jannazo said. They can parachute into emergency scenes, rope down a mountainside to get to victims or swim to them.

Once there, they have the skills to stabilize victims and perhaps save their lives, he said.

"This translates into improving medical care," said Boyers, executive director of the University of Toledo Interprofessional Immersive Simulation Center.
 



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