Kaua‘i Fire Department debuts new driver simulator

LIHU‘E — The Kaua‘i Fire Department has acquired a driver simulator and showed it off recently in a demonstration held at the Lihu‘e Fire Station.

The driver simulator, housed in a 30-foot trailer, uses virtual simulation technology to train drivers in an environment that resembles real-life scenarios.

A large three-panel screen that surrounds a bucket seat, steering wheel, brake and accelerator gives the driver the sense that he or she is operating a vehicle in almost any condition.

The training can teach drivers how to make proper decisions while behind the wheel and learn from their mistakes, without the safety concerns or liability that comes with driving on the road.

“It’s incredible how real it feels,” said Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. as he simulated driving a fire truck down a busy street.

“Most importantly, it gives our crews the tools they need to learn how to operate their vehicles safely in a controlled environment.”

During the demonstration, Kaua‘i Fire Chief Robert Westerman explained that the technology can be used by departments countywide to simulate operating nearly any type of vehicle, including semi-trucks, police cars, tractors and buses.

“Representatives from the Kaua‘i Bus were here (recently) and used the equipment to simulate driving a bus,” said Westerman.

“Operators of every vehicle must pay attention to pedestrians, reckless drivers and other hazardous conditions. This training tool enhances the operator’s senses by providing those scenarios.”

“This equipment is intended to complement, not replace, actual driving time,” Westerman added.

Funding for the simulator was obtained through a Federal Emergency Management Agency program grant, which contributed 80 percent of the $218,000 cost. It was procured through L3 Communications and an instructor from the company was on-island recently to train the team trainers.

“We look forward to using this equipment as an added training tool for our driver certification and annual recertification process,” said Westerman.

“Any tool that can improve safety, for both our personnel and the general public, is a wise investment.”

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