Simulating emergencies in Shetland

In Scotland we’re using virtual reality to help our emergency team get a better sense of the scenarios they may face

Virtual reality simulators at the BP operated Sullom Voe oil and gas terminal in Shetland in the UK are helping train staff to respond to emergencies, from road traffic accidents to serious fires.

The 3D software, viewed on a large screen, brings classroom sessions to life. The simulator creates various situations, including a road traffic collision between a van and a tanker and several types of fires. One person operates the module, while other team members discuss the scenario as it unfolds – and suggest responses. The simulations are designed to respond to the participants’ decisions – so if they make the wrong move, then conditions worsen, and if they make the right decisions then the situation improves.
“With virtual reality you can stop the programme to discuss a scenario and then restart, whereas in the real world you may not have the time and luxury to weigh up your options.”
Martin Sidgwick, emergency response team leader, Sullom Voe, BP
Members of the 60-strong emergency response team at Sullom Voe have to be prepared to react to a range of situations, and the simulators provide virtual access to those scenarios. While emergency response team members also conduct live exercises with real fires and firefighting equipment off-site, they rely on training such as this to keep themselves informed of up-to-date response techniques.

Live exercises often have to fit around the time of the year and the harsh North Sea weather that can interfere with scheduling. But the simulator is flexible, allowing the emergency response team to use it when most convenient – day or night – and even when external weather conditions are terrible. It also gives people space to learn from their actions in a safe environment, while being immersed in a lifelike simulation that prompts realistic responses and is more engaging than looking at flipcharts and whiteboards. 

So far 45 members of the emergency response team have completed virtual reality training.

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