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Training Incorporates VR and Simulations to Enhance Response to Chemical Disasters

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The MOENV's Chemical Administration (CA) has introduced a virtual reality integration of chemical disaster all-around training for the first time. In collaboration with the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), they have developed a virtual reality (VR) training module and the extended reality simulation module. The two modules encompass a total of 20 response training scenarios and 30 instructional training courses. Installed on mobile vehicles, these modules can provide on-the-move, specialized training and testing for toxic chemical disasters and help enhance enterprises’ capabilities in responding to incidents involving hazardous chemical substances.

The CA Director General Hsieh Yein-rui pointed out that, with over 4,400 enterprises in Taiwan engaged in handling toxic substances and hazardous chemicals, effective disaster prevention and response requires collaboration between the public and private sectors. Currently, there are two consultation and monitoring centers as well as 10 technical teams specialized in toxic chemical disaster response across Taiwan. They are manned by 194 professionals who stand ready 24/7 to provide consultations and dispatch specialists to the scene within one hour of a toxic chemical disaster. Furthermore, they engage in preliminary onsite response on the frontline by coordinating with firefighting units and enterprises’ response personnel, which has been crucial for the decrease of toxic chemical incidents over the past two years. As of July this year, there were 5,521 registered professional response personnel in various enterprises, as legally mandated. Currently, 12,771 individuals have completed the required training.

The CA and ITRI have utilized simulation training and VR technology to create a database of past toxic chemical disasters in Taiwan for training purposes. To enhance enterprises’ capability by learning from past response experiences in simulated scenarios, the simulation training modules replicate common industrial components such as valves and pipelines using 3D printing technology. These custom-made transparent pipelines and valves allow trainees to understand their operational mechanisms. Trainees can observe the flow of gases and liquids in real time, and also the dispersions of chemical gases or splashes of liquids in various scenarios that simulate pipeline leakage caused by different pressures.

Utilizing the latest technologies such as mixed reality, augmented reality, and VR, both the VR training module and the extended reality simulation module began to be developed in 2020 and have been progressively deployed in public sector’s training since 2022. The VR training module features various accident settings in different venues, including high-tech factories, petrochemical plants, warehouses, and transportation premises. Simulated scenarios include fires, explosions, and pipeline leakage, all of which can also be combined to closely resemble real-life accidents.

The CA indicated that the toxic chemical disaster response training programs initially only targeted toxic substance-handling enterprises listed for control, government agencies, and professional technical teams. In response to the recent organizational restructuring, such programs have been further carried out in training for enterprises that handle hazardous chemical substances, such as high-tech factories, petrochemical plants, and warehouses. A minimum of 30 sessions, involving 2,000 participants in total, are conducted every year. The programs will be promoted during nationwide and regional toxic chemical disaster drills, on National Disaster Prevention Day, or at major events to enhance awareness. The CA will foster collaboration among the industries, the government, and academia so as to improve prevention of and response to toxic substance and hazardous chemical disasters while emphasizing proactive measures to always be at the ready. The goal is to continually enhance Taiwan’s training capacity for disaster response to safeguard people’s lives and properties.

These two modules include a total of 20 response training scenarios and 30 instructional training courses. Besides being available for training institutions, they are also designed to be mounted on vehicles and therefore allow for mobile deployment and providing enterprises with onsite training for toxic chemical disaster response. This way training sessions are no longer bound by physical locations and are strengthened in quality. Consultation visits and unannounced testing may be incorporated in the future to enhance response personnel’s capabilities.

Excerpt from Major Environmental Policies, September 2023
Ministry of Environment