The management of major incidents, anything from plane crashes to the search for a missing child, can now be authentically recreated and experienced thanks to a purpose built simulation suite recently installed by the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).
The training suite is the most sophisticated university installation in the country and one of the very few in UK universities to mirror the specification and complexity of the most advanced systems used by police forces and other emergency services across the UK and abroad.
Developed by the National Centre for Applied Learning Technologies and known as Hydra/Minerva, the training simulator realistically recreates the sights, sounds, radio messages and telephone calls of crisis situations.
Including hardware and software the University has invested £360,000 in the facility, which incorporates a control centre, a major incident conference room together with additional rooms for student teams to develop and direct incident strategy, tactics and operations. Emergency scenarios could range from 20 minutes to several days and between one and 30 students can use the facility at any given time.
Students from the School of Forensic and Investigative Sciences following policing-related and other emergency services courses will be the major users of the new facility although it has clear applications for students studying programmes as diverse as psychology and business.
Lancashire Constabulary’s Chief Constable Steve Finnigan officially opened the suite on 2 December during a visit to receive an Honorary Fellowship from the University recognising his outstanding contribution to the people of Lancashire and the positive working relationship between the force and the university.
UCLan’s David Mallaby, Principal Lecturer and Academic Lead for Policing, is a former police chief superintendent with a career in the force spanning 30 years. Commenting on the new facility, he said, “Major emergencies such as plane and train crashes are typically complex, initially chaotic and often challenging to manage. These incidents require a team-based approach in which the activities and efforts of those officers involved are effectively co-ordinated and properly directed.
“The investment we have made in this state-of-the-art system will bring critical incident scenarios to life for our students, encouraging them to think strategically, plan tactics and deliver successful outcomes. It’s a safe but challenging training setting where good practice can be identified and shared but crucially it’s a place where mistakes have no operational consequences.”
The current UCLan exercise has been designed for newly promoted police sergeants and looks at a number of issues that they encounter as they come on duty at a busy police station. The initial series of events explore both investigative and critical incident management skills and provides a real world, operational context to augment academic principles taught in the University. The system presents the students with video, audio and documents and while not being a computer game, allows them to seek additional information throughout.
UCLan students using the simulator will be based on programmes at foundation, undergraduate, postgraduate and PhD level.