Training technology can simulate disasters

By Paul Hemsley

Construction and building workers can face real world challenges in a 3-D simulator in Melbourne thanks to federal government funding.

The government contributed $1.9 million to the $14 million Building Leadership Simulation Centre under Master Builders Association (MBA).

It addresses the need for workers and trainees to boost their reflects by facing real situations in a simulated environment, which can save costs for organisations using the technology.

Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research, Chris Evans said the centre will help MBA to offer interactive training to thousands of building professionals a year from apprentices to project managers.

"It creates a virtual workplace where workers can confront many of the challenges faced in construction projects in a risk-free environment and develop the experience they need to deal with those challenges when they face them in the real world,” Mr Evans said.

Pullman Group company, Sim Systems developed the technology for the MBA, which required no tender process.

The technology itself is a 3-D, 15-metre wide parabolic screen, with12 site sheds and a team of actors creating a virtual workplace where participants confront the challenges of a real building site in a risk-free environment.

Overseas companies were used to develop the technology for Pullman Group in particular instances or they may use off the shelf products that need to be customised.

Pullman Group Managing Director, Peter Birnbaum said the technology has applications in areas of health, disasters and emergencies.

Mr Birnbaum said the streamlines it and reduces the costs by hundreds of thousands of dollars in terms of logistics because training can be more frequently planned.

According to Mr Birnbaum, hospitals already have full scale emergency simulation practices that take many months of planning, where everything comes to a “grinding halt” over a two-day period.

“If that coincides with a major influx of patients due to flu or anything else then that training is put off and they usually schedule that training once every two years,” Mr Birnbaum said.

He said a disaster or an emergency can be created virtually within about 15 to 30 minutes, with different types of planning and simulation training in the same day.

These may include a police riot simulation in the morning or an overturned petrol tanker in a tunnel in the afternoon, Mr Birnbaum said.

Mr Birnbaum said that it is difficult to interest people in this kind of technology until an emergency happens.

“When it happens, everyone runs around and says we need to do something, they hold an inquiry and they say it should never happen again,” he said.

“But trying to get governments to commit to training is very difficult.”

Governments usually come to Pullman Group and ask what they can do, which is then a matter of funding that is not available in most cases, Mr Birnbaum said.

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