by George Warren

ELK GROVE (CBS13) — A local fire department is experimenting with virtual reality and believes it could change the way fires are fought in the future.

“It’s the gamification of life-saving technology,” said Cosumnes Fire Department Capt. Kirk McKinzie.

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The department has produced a public service announcement in 360-degree video format and is handing out hundreds of cardboard virtual reality viewers to allow anyone with a smartphone to experience virtual reality. The PSA explains the importance of motorists yielding to emergency vehicles and McKinzie thinks the immersive experience could help drive the point home.

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The Cosumnes Fire Department is also exploring ways to use virtual reality to train firefighters. The department has begun using VR equipment on loan from RiVR, a British firm that creates real-world environments that allow students to safely train in what would otherwise be dangerous situations.

But the ultimate use of virtual reality by public safety agencies might be to allow first responders to share in real time what they’re experiencing at the scene.

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“My hope is someday we are the “iron” first responder, like Iron Man where the incident command has the biotelemetry– knows our heart rate, knows where we are in the building,” McKinzie said.