VR helps train for chemical attacks

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VR helps train for chemical attacks

Korea’s environmental safety authority is using virtual reality technology to train employees on how to handle chemical attacks and leaks.

The National Institute of Chemical Safety announced last Friday that it would invest 1.7 billion won ($1.53 million) into building a virtual reality training program and facility in Osong, North Chungcheong. The institute is under the Ministry of Environment.

Employees will be able to practice dealing with five different scenarios including terror attacks through the program, which is due for completion in October 2020.

Four of the scenarios will involve leaks of common construction and household chemicals like chlorine, hydrochloric acid, copper fluoride and ammonia that originate from transportation accidents or mismanagement.

The other scenario will be a hypothetical sarin gas attack in busy subway stations including Express Bus Terminal in southern Seoul. Sarin is a toxic compound that leads to convulsions, breathing difficulties and often death.

The institute chose these five scenarios based on real chemical incidents that have previously occurred in Korea and abroad. The most infamous sarin gas attack, committed by a Japanese cult in the Tokyo subway during rush hour in 1995, killed 12 people.

“We plan to make our program available not only to chemical experts but safety managers in factories as well later on,” a spokesman for the National Institute of Chemical Safety said.

Three to four people can participate simultaneously in the virtual reality training program, where they can practice reporting chemical incidents, putting on protective clothing and responding to leaks through tasks like tightening loose pipes. The program will also produce standardized assessments of their performance.

The chemical leaks themselves will be displayed in 3-D within the program, creating a heightened sense of reality.

“We expect the officials’ ability to respond to chemical accidents and terrorism to increase once we launch the virtual reality program in 2020,” said Hwang Seung-ryul, head of the institute’s accident coordination and training division.

The institute is not the only government agency that has shown interest in using virtual reality technology to train officials. The Army also developed a virtual reality program to simulate a real war zone and help soldiers hone their shooting skills, while the Navy has also been training its troops using similar technology since 2013 to prepare them for special operations.

BY KIM EUN-JIN [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]
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