Simulator lets you feel heat without getting burned
Chris Austin, 16, son of Fort McPherson Lawrence Joel Health Clinic worker Wanda Austin, uses an electronic fire extinguisher to put out a situational "fire" in the BullEx Fire Prevention and Life Safety trailer. The unit simulates a fire in both an industrial (shown here) and a kitchen environment. The simulation produces real smoke and generates heat to mimic an actual fire without the flame. This allows individuals to learn how to safely operate and extinguish a fire without the chance of severe injury. The unit will help train individuals on proper fire safety containment drills and will be available for training in the near future.

The Army knows that realistic training is the best for properly preparing Soldiers for their duties, and have taken numerous steps to ensure that today's training truly replicates the modern battlefield. Now, with the arrival of a new piece of equipment, the firemen who serve these Soldiers and their families on Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem are also getting some of the most realistic fire prevention training.

The BullEx Fire Prevention and Life Safety Trailer is a state-of-the-art piece of equipment that replicates a kitchen and industrial type environment and fires that can be encountered there.

Within the trailer, trainees experience a realistic simulation of a fire that utilizes multiple human senses, said Roger Snell, Fort McPherson and Fort Gillem Chief of Fire Prevention. The presence of smoke, the sound of fire and electricity arcing, and the rapid increase in temperature all experienced in a controlled and safe environment within the trailer, he added.

"It puts a realistic touch on the basic senses," said Fort McPherson fire inspector Mark San Nicolas. "You hear the noise, feel the heat and smell the smoke. It runs the whole gambit."

The trailer run scenarios are a major improvement in the previous fire safety training and fire extinguisher training, Snell said.

"Before, we'd show a movie, show a presentation and then did some fire extinguisher training on a propane burner," Snell said.

Now in the trailer, which arrived two weeks ago, the experience is greatly enhanced, Snell explained.

"Its computer based electronics and lasers," he said. A fire is displayed on a computer light emitting diode and the extinguisher shoots a laser which can be picked up by a sensor in the LED. Successfully using the extinguisher blackens out the fire. However, doing so requires using proper techniques as well as dealing with rising temperatures and the presence of smoke.

"The smoke is mineral oil based, the same thing you'd find in a smoke machine," Snell said. Thus, it is non-toxic and safe for mostly everyone. Snell said the only people who may not be able to participate are those with severe asthmatic problems.

Learning what to do when encountering a fire is important because of the speed at which a fire can spread, San Nicolas said. According to the National Fire Protection Association, a house can be engulfed in flames in three minutes. San Nicolas added that most fires occur in the kitchen, one of the environments in the simulator, due to unattended cooking.

Learning to prevent damage before it spreads can save lives, resources and a lot of money for the Army.

"A DA report came out and said that fire damage (in the Army) came out to millions of dollars due to negligence," San Nicolas said.

Because it is required that people are trained yearly on the proper use of fire extinguishers, Snell said it is important that the trailer was purchased to enhance fire prevention skills.

"We'd like everyone to come out so we can show them the trailer and show them what to do to prevent fires," San Nicolas added.
Currently, a training schedule is being created to accommodate future training events to the community, Snell said.

"Probably the first big event will be the Army birthday (see page 7 for info on the Army birthday)," Snell said. "Soldiers, civilians and Family members are all encouraged to come and see it."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16