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Johnson County emergency responders train on vehicle simulator

JOHNSON COUNTY, Ind. -- Police, fire, EMS and other agencies in Johnson County are testing out a computerized simulator to train for emergency driving situations.

Johnson County Sheriff Doug Cox says the EVOC (Emergency Vehicle Operations Course) simulator is providing a new experience for members of his department, as well as other surrounding agencies. The simulator can be used by first responders to satisfy state requirements for emergency driving training.

“So we decided to go a different route this year to get the hours that we need for our yearly training,” Cox said.

The simulator is set up in a trailer, inside a pole barn behind the Johnson County Jail. The system includes three screens that wrap 180 degrees around a vehicle mock up. The steering wheel and driving console are taken from a real car, including lights, sirens and emergency radio. The whole set up provides realistic sights, sounds and vibrations of a running engine.

Cox believes the $6,000 cost to lease the simulator for one week will prove to be a money saver, replacing the cost of a lot of vehicle maintenance that normally follows real-world road course training.

“There is a lot of wear and tear on our vehicles,” Cox said. “Brakes, tires, the vehicles themselves.”

Training programs include changing weather conditions, sudden obstacles like pedestrians and inattentive drivers, and simulated pursuits. Officers running through various pursuit scenarios must also be on the lookout for every day hazards like civilian drivers ignoring police sirens and suddenly driving into the officer’s path. The 180 degree surround screens simulate side windshield and mirrors so an officer can look out for oncoming cross traffic before racing through an intersection.

“And it really forces you to pay more attention and slow down just a little bit, watching the intersections and the blind corners,” said Lt. Mike Rogier.

Another benefit to the program, Cox said, is that the settings can be changed to simulate driving different vehicles, other than police cars. A person running the program can feel like they are driving an ambulance or fire truck. Members of the White River Township Fire Department were using the program this week to practice navigating civilian traffic while racing to fire scenes.

Cox said this week’s trial run could determine whether the simulator will become a regular part of his department’s training.

“Hopefully the officers will be able to use this device and learn something from it,” Cox said. “And hopefully we might be able to do this every year.”