Haver Street Studios

New application will help emergency workers.

The events of Sept. 11 have forced companies to think more seriously about preparing for critical situations and natural disaster. We recently spoke with Lynn Edmundson, president of Houston-based Haver Street Studios, about the company and its recent launch of an interactive Web-based application that will help train workers in managing and dealing with critical incidents.

Could you tell us about Haver Street Studios?

It was founded in 1999 by William R. Gleason, Sydney Moen, and myself. Haver Street Studios creates interactive and immersive media content and system development for training simulations and educational purposes. This immersive media provides a 360-degree visualization of existing and conceptual spaces, objects, and environments that can be combined with 3D modeling, animations, and high-fidelity special effects to create a highly realistic and compelling learning environment for a variety of training applications.

Could you tell us about the application HSS just launched?

VRCOMMAND is an interactive application for emergency-response training that’s currently used in the industrial sector. Unlike most computer-based training applications–in which a trainee sits in front of a computer, passively reading or listening to the material presented–VRCOMMAND provides scenarios that interactively engage trainees by transforming facility-specific photographic images into a 3D training environment with real-time incident escalation and high-fidelity special effects. Among other things, the application utilizes an interactive chat application to simulate an emergency responder’s radio. This allows an individual or group to communicate throughout the entire training session.

VRCOMMAND can be used by a number of organizations, including industrial and manufacturing companies, municipal and volunteer fire departments, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Justice.

Was the launch of this application a direct response to 9/11?

No, VRCOMMAND had already been under development for about 18 months. Originally it was developed to provide an online tool to enhance training for chemical process safety in the industrial sector. We had planned to unveil the application at a National Institute of Justice Conference that had been planned for Sept. 17-19 in Albuquerque, N.M. [now rescheduled for May 2002]. The events of Sept. 11 did, however, bring into focus the need for adequate training for all emergency responders. We immediately refocused our marketing efforts on getting VRCOMMAND in front of those departments and agencies looking at new technologies for training and preparing emergency responders.

What else can we expect from HSS in 2002?

Haver Street Studios is currently working on a variety of critical incident and public safety scenarios, including hazardous materials, mass casualty, aviation-related, and transportation-related incidents, as well as natural and man-made disasters that address these multi-jurisdictional training needs. By the end of 2002 we expect to have VRCOMMAND in a distributed learning environment, deliverable over the Internet and available as a subscription service.

This would expand the training opportunities to even larger populations of first responders, including smaller municipal departments and volunteer fire departments. President Bush recently announced a proposal to spend $3.5 billion in 2003 to enhance homeland security and the response capabilities of America’s first responders. The need for coordinated, regular exercises to improve critical-incident response capabilities for improved operations were key issues of his proposal, and that is exactly what VRCOMMAND is designed to provide.

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