In an exclusive interview with FutureGov, Andrew Rowlands (pictured), Inspector, Promotional Programmes, School of Policing, Victoria Police Australia speaks on the agency’s newest Hydra-Minerva suite, a software system that enables immersive training.
“The system allows the agency to place members into realistic simulation of any scenarios, from emergency management, counter-terrorism to basic leadership training of handling difficult conversations with staff,” says Rowlands, who manages training curriculum to make sure the agency’s 15,000 officers are equipped for their roles.
The project which started eight months ago costs approximately A$1.4 million (US$1.24 million) including the building of the facility, renovation, purchase of IT infrastructure, consulting and training fee. While it is a hefty sum, Rowlands believes that the effectiveness and scaleability of the system makes it a good investment.
The first pilot programme developed by the Force will be rolled out in April or May. It will simulate a bush fire scenario, designed to occur in an area that is prone to bush fire periodically.
“This programme will allow us to put our members in an environment where they have to make decisions such as whether or not to evacuate the area, identifying the vulnerable people in the community and how to respond,” describes Rowlands.
“The system is set in a room with no natural lighting, so it is completely immersive and makes training more realistic. The software allows us to intervene during the simulation, and get members to articulate their thought process and reflect on their decision making,” he adds.
One of the key challenges the agency faces now is becoming familiar with how the system operates. The team needs to develop their capacity to maintain the integrity of the Hydra-Minerva programme.
Rowlands is also looking to develop a robust business model that will accommodate other agencies’ use of the system. “There are huge opportunities and benefits to use the system for multi-agency exercises because Victoria Police works closely with organisations such as Fire Services, Ambulance Victoria, and Department of Health.”
Lastly, Victoria Police is finding academic partners for the programme. University of Melbourne, for example, has a simulation software that makes use of Big Data or Meta Data analysis from a range of sources. “We are excited at the prospect of using some of this simulation data in the Hydra-Minerva programme to create a virtual emergency environment,” concludes Rowlands.
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