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VR Disaster Management for Public Buildings

Disasters and crises can occur in any form. It could be a natural disaster like earthquakes, fire or floods. It could also be man-made disasters like terrorism and hostage situations. Disaster management is a major challenge for city authorities.

Virtual reality can provide great solutions for disaster management. To understand this concept, let us first briefly discuss conventional disaster management procedures. Consider a case of a hospital and crisis occurring in a part of it. There would be two challenges. One is the escape of occupants of that part of the hospital. Second is the rescue operation for those who cannot escape and handle the crisis situation. During disasters and crises, following things usually happen. Power Failure. Owning to this, major functions of the building cease to operate. Only emergency services are functional. Major signage and lights stop functioning. There may be the only emergency lights. Internal Communication systems like intercoms and public address systems stop working. There may not be any system left to communicate with others. People stuck in crisis areas get into a panic. They may not be able to read maps or safety procedures. Due to immense chaos and confusion, people in crisis may not be able to reach for safety manuals and evacuation maps. Even if they reach, their state of mind may not allow them to understand them Usually, the following things may prove helpful in such situations. Mobile phones keep working. Unless there is a major disaster, mobile networks remain functional. Even otherwise, mobile phones can work on offline data. Mobile phones can work on any application installed on them, meant for rescue operations. Since mobile screens are lit, they keep working in dark. Mobile phones are always with people, so they can use them in any situation. Virtual reality can be utilized to create applications for disaster management, which can run even on mobile devices as mobile applications. This disaster management service consists of three major elements. Virtual reality tour of the property Escape options for people occupying the building Rescue options for external rescue agencies to reach the area in crisis Using virtual reality, we create a virtual tour of the whole property. As discussed in my previous articles, this tour itself can be used in multiple ways. After the creation of the tour, we analyze various areas of the property that can classify them into zones. For each zone, we work out both escape and rescue options. For escape options, we establish the nearest safe exits for each zone. We may even classify the type of disaster and distinguish the nearest safe exists accordingly. Similarly, for rescue options, we establish the nearest safe entry points to reach the zone in crisis. We again can classify the type of disaster and choose the best safe entry points accordingly. During disaster situations, users can run the escape application on their mobile phones. They would be guided visually point to point to reach the nearest safe exit. During panic situations, the easiest thing to identify is a location. When the application shows a panoramic visual, users can identify it much easily than any textual content. Once they reach the location, they can choose the next using application. The application would guide them with markers and safety warnings at each location. In the meantime, rescue agencies would start their operations. On their way to reach the crisis location, they can use the same application to know in detail about the property. As they select the crisis zone, they get a visual guide to reach that zone. During transit, they can form strategies for rescue. The administration can use this application to inform various rescue agencies. They can assess the zone in crisis, and plan accordingly. For example, if the crisis zone has inflammable material stores, they would inform fire authorities in addition to rescue personnel. Since this service provides true picture of the site, escape and rescue operations can be done hassle-free. If drawing and maps would have to be used, the first hassle would be to obtain them. Even if digital versions are available, understanding maps and drawing take much more time. Moreover, there are several changes made in building after construction as per drawings and maps. Some doors may have been changed or locked, some windows might have blocked furniture against them. All these elements remain clearly visible in the virtual reality tour. Virtual reality tours and disaster management services are the best solution for crisis management and a must for smart cities.

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