PROVO – Orem Police train for dangerous situations without actually being in danger thanks to a virtual reality program called Virtra.
They gave us an inside look at how the program works.
"All units: we have shots fired at Central High School."
A fake dispatch call alerts officers to a school shooting, and an officer responds: "Let's go. We got shots fired. Let's move. Let's move!"
They search for a shooter in the hallway, passing injured students and staff before making their way to the library.
Officer: "Drop that weapon. Two down in the library!"
The surround screen simulator is called Virtra. A computer system simulates hundreds of various scenarios, from active shooters in schools to domestic violence incidents – and tests officers' split-second decisions in stressful situations.
“It helps us a great deal; It puts us in a situation to be in a scenario that is dangerous without actually being in danger,” said Sgt. Scott Rich, Orem Police Department.
In another scenario, officers tried to calm down a suicidal man.
Officer: "Hey Kevin, talk to me. What's going on buddy? Put that knife down."
Rich said it's an invaluable tool.
“That's what it comes down to is training,” Rich said. “Doing something like this over and over again in different types of scenarios makes you better at it as you progress.”
Fox 13’s Tamara Vaifanua even got a chance to test it out. It wasn’t easy trying to take down an active shooter in the courthouse.
Tamara: "Stop where you're at... wow, that was intense."
“It makes people think about what's happening," Rich said. "Things happen very fast and a lot of times it's easy to kinda see or hear something that's happening and not really know what's happening."
Most importantly, officers are also trained to communicate effectively to get to the safest outcome.
“What we want to do is take that aggression level down," Rich said. "The last thing we wanna do is have to go hands-on or injure somebody."
All law enforcement agencies in Utah utilize this life-like training several times a year.