The Chicago Fire Department is swapping out coloring books for virtual reality headsets as its preferred educational tool to instill fire safety basics in the minds of elementary and middle schoolers.
Fire Commissioner Richard Ford unveiled the technology Tuesday during a demonstration at St. Sabina Academy with a group of 5th and 6th graders who strapped on the headsets to find themselves getting out of bed to the sound of a beeping smoke detector.
Students, faced with several options to escape, used a handheld device pick what to do next.
“It feels real,” said 11-year-old Daila Wardell. “I ran downstairs,” she said, safely avoiding a kitchen that was ablaze.
“It gives you the experience of knowing how to get out of a fire but in a way that doesn’t traumatize the kids,” said Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford, whose voice narrates the options in the virtual setting.
“It is the first of its kind,” Ford said proudly during a news conference at the Auburn Gresham neighborhood school.