Preparing Property Owners For Wildfires
Virtual Reality Simulation
The Palouse Knowledge Corridor (PKC), book-ended by the University of Idaho and Washington State University, is known as a hotbed of entrepreneurial success. Blaze, software that is pushing virtual technology (VR) boundaries, is the latest University of Idaho success story. Still in development, Blaze: Secure The Shelter is a simulation game enhanced with VR that educates people how to reduce combustible material on and around their homes and prepare for evacuations before wildfires strike.
Senior instructor, Brian Cleveley, characterized this approach as
“real-world outcomes, without real-world consequences.”
Participants learn to “Defend Your Space” before panic strikes, and rational decision-making becomes impossible as life and death decisions flood their field of view.
The Insurance Information Institute ranked Idaho and Washington as the 5th and 6th most wildfire-prone states in 2017. The National Interagency Fire Center calculated on average more than 65,000 fires burning nearly 6.4 million acres occurred across the United States annually, between 2007 and 2017. The US Forest Service spends up to $1.7 billion yearly on wildfire costs alone.
The state of Washington experienced its worst wildfire season in 2015 and was declared eligible for federal emergency assistance. On August 19, 2015, three young men lost their lives fighting wildfires near Twisp, WA in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest.
Their tragic deaths highlighted the danger to anyone living in a wildfire’s path. An educational platform that instilled “best practices” for preparing and surviving wildland fires before conditions created an inescapable catastrophe was needed. Turning that preparation into a game increased the likelihood live-saving information would become second-nature if the game were fun, could be played repeatedly and made widely available. Blaze: Secure The Shelter is that educational platform.
Four Key Wildfire Preparation Decisions
Designed by an online collaborative team, living across the country, the University of Idaho’s Virtual Technology And Design group in the College of Arts and Architecture includes fire specialists, programmers, designers, ag extension personnel, educators, public relations experts and support staff.
1. Choose Your Building Materials
3. Defend Your Space
2. Prepare Your Go Bag
4. Grab Your Go Bag And Evacuate
University of Idaho’s Robust Entrepreneurial Seedbed
Blaze: Secure The Shelter is another example of the same University of Idaho’s robust entrepreneurial seedbed that produced wristband electrocution detectors, solar-powered raised pavement markers, land management systems using unmanned aerial measurements, dramatic reductions in pesticide overspray, soil stabilization products, and snow bike conversion kits.