As of September 1, 2019, there have been 283 mass shootings in the US. September 1st was the 244th day of the year.
The staggering rates of mass violence over recent years have prompted schools, places of worship, and businesses to double down on active shooter protocol, de-escalation strategies, and worker safety procedures.
But what does effective procedural training for these unimaginable incidents even look like? How can we insure safety without promoting excess fear? And what makes these types of training programs successful?
Recently, organizations have been turning to immersive learning options such as VR for crisis response and de-escalation. These tools allow trainees to engage with safety protocols in a brand new way, immersing them in relevant and impactful experiences.
The difference in immersive learning
Approximately 60% of active shooter incidents end before the police arrive. Seconds become absolutely critical, and employees on the front lines must be able to carry out emergency safety procedures without a second thought. With this in mind, programs need to provide trainees not only with information but significant practice opportunities to build both confidence and competence in order to reduce decision-making time and ensure the right decisions are made.
VR’s sense of presence is key here. One of its three superpowers, the sense of presence unique to VR and other immersive media puts the viewer in the middle of an experience. Not only does this help ensure they’re focused and engaged, but it promotes memory formation similar to that of real life; in other words, trainees can walk away from a virtual experience with many of the tools and takeaways they would have gained from experiencing it in the physical world.
In active shooter response and other worker safety training, this is especially important for a couple of reasons. First, as mentioned, every moment is critical meaning the faster employees can fall into formation and execute swift safety procedures, the better. Second is the fact that meaningful practice for these types of scenarios has been difficult to acquire. In the past, businesses have settled for talking through safety protocol, administering a 2D online demonstration that doesn’t emulate real life or engage the viewer, or role-play options which use the physical space but often feel cheesy and forced, and is limited to some doing with other watching.
VR, on the other hand, allows viewers to train in a virtual environment based on their workplace and sit in the driver’s seat in an immersive, consequence-free environment. Rather than read through theoretical steps in a workbook, employees can practice making decisions under time constraints, navigate their workplace, de-escalate panicked costumes, and more, without any social awkwardness that pollutes co-worker roleplays.
VR safety training in action
Recently, Pixvana partnered with Alexo, experts in tactical training to counter workplace violence, to produce an immersive learning experience designed to help any workplace prepare to respond to an active shooter event.
The experience features Drew Hancock, Alexo’s founder, Seattle police officer, and SWAT Supervisor with more than 25 years of law enforcement experience. Bolstered by VR’s sense of presence — the experience of actually being in the room with Hancock — viewers are taught live-saving strategies, learn easy-to-remember acronyms, and simulate life-saving tactics for employees. Throughout the experience, employees are given interactive quizzes to measure their competence and preparedness regarding the curriculum.
“Virtual reality is extremely effective for teaching situational awareness and life-saving response for an active shooter scenario,” Hancock said. “Learning response strategies is important, but actually simulating and experiencing different scenarios can increase comprehension and response time, which could be all the difference. VR provides employees with valuable practice that cannot be replicated in typical training. It’s a game-changing technology that can have a real impact for people in moments when it counts the most.”
The experience is unique in that it is designed to be applicable to businesses of all kinds, including office, retail, and co-working spaces. Additionally, companies can opt to build upon the core curriculum with tailored content to their location, layout, or industry. Already, the Active Shooter Response training is being tested by a number of businesses including Vulcan, which oversees the philanthropic efforts of Microsoft’s late co-founder, Paul Allen. Early results are showing a 32% increase in readiness and an average of 8/10 approval rating. Learn more about the experience and how to bring it to your organization here.
VR and general workplace safety
Beyond emergency scenarios, many businesses are turning to VR as a training tool because of its unique ability to provide safety training. For employees executing potentially risky tasks — like an underwater mechanic, a delivery driver navigating traffic-heavy streets, or a warehouse employee stacking heavy packages — VR grants safe practice opportunities where trainees can deeply engage in their learning to gain skills, reflect on their strategies, and receive personalized feedback based on manager review and VR-unique analytics.
For emergency procedures and day-to-day operations alike, VR is granting organizations a new way to educate, protect, and empower employees to make safe, responsible decisions in the workplace thanks to its sense of presence and realistic environments.
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