Behind the (virtual) wheel

     Emergency Vehicle Operations (EVO) are one of those activities that can bring harm to individual officers and risk to the general public. It is what we refer to as a "High-Frequency/High-Risk" activity. It's also widely known that more...

     Emergency Vehicle Operations (EVO) are one of those activities that can bring harm to individual officers and risk to the general public. It is what we refer to as a "High-Frequency/High-Risk" activity. It's also widely known that more officers are killed annually in vehicle accidents than by any other single cause.

     The California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) issued a report on officers killed in the line of duty. The report reflects that from 2000 to 2004, 60 California peace officers were killed in the line of duty. Of those 60 deaths, 37 were determined accidental. This statistic shows that 67 percent of these officers were killed in preventable accidents.

     Of those 37 accidental deaths, 28 were in traffic-related accidents, meaning that 76 percent of those accidental deaths, and nearly 50 percent of all line-of-duty deaths, occurred as a result of traffic-related accidents.

     While emergency vehicle operation training may be a high-priority skill, it can be expensive and time consuming. Vehicle maintenance, replacement tires and brakes, a compatible training facility and qualified instructors can quickly drain an agency of material and personnel. In this time of shrinking budgets and low staffing levels, law enforcement agency leaders must find innovative ways to ensure their personnel are properly trained.

     Applied Simulation Technologies (AST) in Murray, Utah, has an innovative training tool to help address some of these issues. The EVOC-101 Web training system is a Web-based training (WBT) course in emergency vehicle operation for law enforcement and fire department personnel as well as any other emergency vehicle drivers. The course is taken online by individual officers and allows them to train themselves as spare time during a regular shift allows. As a result, less time is spent rearranging shift schedules and less money is spent paying overtime for personnel to attend formal training courses.

     EVOC-101 Web is not intended to replace simulator training or actual driving exercises. Instead, it should be used as the first stage of a blended-learning curriculum. Blended learning is a technique of instruction whereby students are taught over time using various instructional techniques. Blended learning is widely recognized as the most effective way to teach adults, as students are given information in a manner that addresses auditory, visual and kinesthetic learners. This, combined with exposure to the material over an extended time period, ensures that the knowledge is better retained by students.

     The course is designed to compliment current emergency vehicle operation (EVO) training by providing introductory exposure to EVO principles, refresher training of perishable driving skills and remediation scoring reviews. It can also be effectively implemented as a precursor to driving simulation, and can track performance-based training.

     This course presents the material in a classroom-type setting. The curriculum covers driving techniques, safety and tactical concepts, rules, and procedural knowledge needed for operators of emergency vehicles. The intent is to give emergency responders the skills they need to drive safely and effectively in emergency response situations.

     Topics include vital skills such as proper vehicle position approaching; entering and exiting intersections; proper use of emergency lights and siren; when and how to use oncoming lanes; and silent or covert response. All of these are covered in a graphic-rich, interactive format. The multi-media courseware prepares users for hands-on practice in a simulator or in a vehicle on the range. EVOC-101 Web can not only be used to train new personnel, but also to provide experienced emergency response drivers with a quick review of policy issues and perishable skills.

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