Researchers at NYU-Poly created a unique game-based computer program to educate, train, and disseminate critical information to both career and volunteer firefighters. Advanced Learning Through Integrated Visual Environments (ALIVE) features short interactive training modules that incorporate game techniques and simulate the real-time critical decision-making process. Applications for mobile devices are also available for download.
Since its inception, ALIVE has been adopted as a training tool by more than 100 fire departments that encompass more than 25,000 firefighters, including those from New York City and Chicago—two of the largest departments in the nation.
ALIVE was funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and led by NYU-Poly in partnership with the Fire Department of New York, the Chicago Fire Department, and the fire departments of Bloomington, Eden Prairie, and Eagan, Minnesota. Tests of 600 firefighters determined that individuals who trained using ALIVE scored consistently higher than those who received classroom training.
“We were stunned that the firefighters did so much better with ALIVE than in the classroom—it is rare that results are this strong and consistent,” says NYU-Poly professor of environmental psychology Richard Wener, one of the leaders of the research project. ALIVE research leader Sunil Kumar is professor of mechanical engineering at NYU-Poly and dean of engineering at NYU Abu Dhabi; Prabodh Panindre, a senior research scientist at NYU-Poly, is also a member of the project.
Working through the interactive ALIVE segments, firefighters learn more than just how to fight a fire: They learn the science behind the fires. Achieving an understanding of fire dynamics is of paramount importance to today’s firefighters since the characteristics of modern residential construction—including large, open layouts, increased fuel loads from synthetic materials and furnishings, and minimal fire resistance of structural components—make modern residential fires far different from those of past generations.
Two modules of ALIVE, “Wind-Driven High-Rise Fires” and “Fires in Residential Lightweight Construction,” have been released to the nationwide firefighter community free of charge, along with iOS and Android versions.