The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition (HFSC) has been awarded a 2020 Fire Prevention & Safety (FP&S) grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). With it, HFSC will pioneer and evaluate use of its innovative virtual reality (VR) home fire sprinkler educational technology, funded by a seed grant from property insurer State Farm.

In the coming year, HFSC will build on the production of its state-of-the-art, 360-degree, 3D and 2D virtual education tools. This next-generation home fire safety education will be introduced to the fire service with best-practices training through various state coalitions. It will also be rolled out nationally with a consumer digital awareness campaign.

The resources include the VR video shot in an actual house fire without and with fire sprinkler activation. The technology will be adapted in 2D video for on-demand use via the Internet. The 360-degree, 3D format will be created in a guided, immersible education version.

This portable side-by-side will allow a viewer wearing a headset to experience the fire as if they were inside the burning house. Guided by the fire service educator, viewers will see it from any angle, hear the fire crackle, see flashover, and watch the flames and smoke spread. Their experience will be dramatically contrasted with the fire sprinkler activation and its control of the fire.

For 25 years, HFSC has been working with the fire service to mitigate home fire loss. HFSC’s free resources help fire departments improve and increase their local home fire sprinkler education and advocacy. Live flashover and fire sprinkler side-by-side events have been a successful centerpiece of this collaboration, presenting realistic home fire and sprinkler scenarios to the public to reinforce the speed of fire and the importance of having fire sprinklers, smoke alarms and escape planning.

Seeing is believing, but live burns are not viable for every fire department due to expenses, storage, maintenance and burn regulations. “HFSC’s new virtual reality education presents a better side-by-side,” said Lorraine Carli, HFSC president and NFPA vice president of Outreach and Advocacy. “This novel educational approach will help fire departments reach key decision makers in their jurisdictions with the facts about today’s house fires and the unparalleled protection afforded by installed fire sprinklers.”

The technology can be shared through social media, used remotely and via distance learning, as well as presented in person. Easy to access Internet versions of the VR video will increase and improve consumer and homebuyer education.

“This project illustrates the value of private and public funding partnerships,” Carli says. “Thanks to FEMA and State Farm, HFSC will be able to help fire departments of any size or type feature the new technology as part of their Community Risk Reduction efforts. Virtual reality puts the viewer right in the fire – safely – with portable immersion education tools and dramatic on-demand formats that can be used and reused to educate indefinitely, anywhere at any time.”

HFSC produced a short video about the VR educational kit: