The Palm Beach Gardens Fire Rescue department is the first in the state to use virtual reality to train its firefighters.
Before firefighters rush up the ladder or to a patient's bedside, they train, train and train some more.
“They are much more calm in the field because they’ve seen it already,” explained Chief Cory Bessette.
Palm Beach Gardens is one of the few departments with a fully-staffed lab dedicated to improving, analyzing and training for emergency medical services. The lab is equipped with mannequins that have a pulse, blink, breathe and can talk back.
“You literally want to suck them into a scenario so everything else is out and they’re taking care of that patient at that time,” explained EMS Coordinator Lou Steinberg.
Last month, the department added virtual reality to its lists of tools. All thanks to a donation from the community.
The virtual reality goggles take paramedics from a training room into a patient’s home.
“You feel like you’re really standing in that room when you’re in the virtual reality world,” explained Lt. Ryan Winkelman, a 15-year veteran who admitted he didn’t know what to expect when he strapped on the headset.
“It is so realistic and it puts you in that scenario where there is a little bit of stress, where you’re sweating a little bit and you’re trying to work through the scenario,” said Bessette.
He pointed out visitors and people in Palm Beach Gardens benefit the most by having paramedics ready to react to whatever the real world throws at them.