When coming out of a training event that is meant to depict a real-life crisis situation, law enforcement officers should not feel relaxed as if it was a walk in the park. Truly realistic training will get your heart rate up as you go through stressful scenarios with unexpected outcomes – similar to what happens in real life when law enforcement officers enter an unpredictable crisis.

The point is that training needs to be taken seriously, not treated like a video game. With realistic on-screen characters, accurate marksmanship and true-to-life training points, cadets realize that it is serious training. This is why VirTra’s video-based scenarios are filmed in 4K with real people instead of computer-generated images (CGI). CGI that is commonly seen in older simulator programs and virtual reality headsets depict characters that don’t show the same subtle nuances and facial expressions as real people. While the latest movies have shown that CGI has come a very long way, it is not there yet in terms of being an effective method of training.

How VirTra Clients See a Difference

Lowell Police Department in Massachusetts have recently begun the use of an immersive VirTra V-300® five-screen simulator thanks to the help of grant money. An article in the Lowell Sun discussed Lowell PD’s use of the new technology, how it helps officers and why it is an important method of training. Police Superintendent Kelly Richardson let reporters know how trainees react when placed in the simulator and how it has caused stress responses.

“It’s so real, they’re sweating, the whole nine yards and afterwards they say after something like ‘this is exhausting.’ They actually check their heart rates when they’re done,” Richardson said. The article noted that during an active threat scenario, officers at Lowell PD have shown reactions indicating an adrenaline response.

Another law enforcement member of Lowell PD, Officer Ramos, thought the simulator would be more like a video game. Ramos was surprised to see that the “scenarios resemble the calls he has been dispatched to over his 16 years as an officer” according to the same article.

To learn more about how VirTra can help your agency take training seriously while obtaining necessary skills, contact a product specialist.

As you have likely heard, VirTra is launching the new V-Threat-Fire: the third generation of consequence-inducing simulation accessories! This device is incredibly powerful, delivering vibrations or electric impulses to simulate return fire, dog bites, explosions or other harmful effects in the training simulator.

The reason VirTra focuses on creating realistic consequence devices is because of the stress or the arousal state it creates. An officer’s critical decision-making and problem-solving skills become muddled in stress-filled atmospheres until the officer learns the skills involved with stress inoculation. However, learning to control one’s reactions to stress and minimizing its effects takes time. And if the training environment doesn’t provide stress, then an officer must try to learn stress inoculation in the field—a dangerous, difficult practice.

The Psychological Effect

The V-Threat-Fire is a small accessory that attaches to the trainee’s belt. Knowing that this device can release strong vibrations or electric impulses immediately immerses trainees in a stress-induced environment, thus providing a critical aspect to stress inoculation.

Instructors have great control as to what kind of stress to provide, as this device can emit impulses from 0.2 to 1 second from up to 50ft away. Since the device is activated via the Instructor’s Station—the same place where training scenario are ran—instructors can completely devote their attention to training as trainees move around the simulator.

In addition to adding psychological stress, V-Threat-Fire increases realism by completing the interaction loop. Think about it this way: trainees engage with simulated subjects, who are now able to safely physically engage back, changing one-sided interaction to a full circle. Instructors can supply that interaction through the shocks or vibrations of the V-Threat-Fire, prompting trainees to take training more seriously.

Getting Started with V-Threat-Fire

Stress is a powerful psychological tool that, when created by V-Threat-Fire, can prepare trainees to perform effectively in difficult situations in the field. Proper implementation helps teach stress inoculation, preparing officers for life in the field.

To learn more about using V-Threat-Fire in conjunction with your training simulator, contact a VirTra specialist. Or visit us this weekend at IACP!

Everyone has experienced a stressful situation before, even those outside of the law enforcement field. Stress can be caused by a verbal argument, a heavy workload at your job or even a traffic jam on the way home. Stress and its influence on arousal are two factors that can greatly influence your performance on the job, particularly as a law enforcement officer during a force encounter.

Both stress and arousal can help or hinder various aspects of performance, but the two are not the same. Stress can occur when the perceived demands of an event exceed one’s perceived ability to meet those demands. Stress is expressed physical arousal in the form of increased heart rate, blood pressure and breathing patterns. Too much stress can limit one’s ability to recall an event.

The purpose of arousal, is the act of stimulating readiness. Your senses become “prepared” to the point of perception. It affects the regulation of consciousness, attention and alertness. In fact, the common “fight, flight and freeze” responses are initiated by arousal.

The Yerkes-Dodson Law

The Yerkes-Dodson Law specifically relates to arousal and is characterized by its “Inverted U” graph. This law “suggests that there is a relationship between performance and arousal” (Cherry, 2020). Lower arousal is better for cognitive tasks, while high arousal is better for strength and endurance-related events. Essentially, arousal can improve performance, but if arousal climbs too high, it can begin to hinder it. As the graph above shows, there is an apex where peak performance can be achieved.

So how does this relate back to the law enforcement field? It is important to know how stress affects you personally and how it can compound with arousal, and the best way to find out is during training sessions. Higher arousal can affect perception; it allows people to focus on pieces of events that the brain deems important to survival, but it does so at the detriment to other parts of the event. By practicing in a VirTra police training simulator, you can learn how stress and arousal contribute to your memory of events and performance. Training tools that induce stress such as the Threat-Fire® can provide stress and consequences within a safe environment, letting you learn to work through situations under pressure.

To learn more about human factors, customers have free access to the Human Factors in Force Encounters V-VICTA™ curriculum. This IADLEST-certified course includes a lesson plan, slide show presentation, course materials and more to teach officers the science behind our reactions during force encounters. Additionally, the content was authored by not only VirTra’s in-house subject matter experts, but based on the ground breaking work of Force Science Institute’s Executive Director and Co-Founder Dr. William Lewinsky.

To learn how to get this content, please contact a product specialist.


Cherry, K. (2020, May 10). The Yerkes-Dodson Law and Performance. Retrieved from Very Well Mind: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-the-yerkes-dodson-law-2796027

It is no surprise: critical decision-making and problem solving become increasingly difficult in stress-filled atmospheres. The weight of the situation, the struggle to remember prober tactics and the knowledge that each action carries significant consequences combine to create a tense environment.

Stress Inoculation Training

Trainees are best prepared for these situations after extensive practice in psychologically-similar situations. Through stress inoculation, not only are law enforcement able to train to think better in difficult circumstances, they can also gain control over advantages such as focused senses, faster decision-making, improved mental function and increased strength¹.

But these benefits only manifest themselves after plenty of practice and personal emotional mastery. Instructors can easily start this process by incorporating stress inoculation into law enforcement training, beginning with the physiological stress. One way is through loud noises, complicated instructions and other forms of distraction.

Another method of adding stress includes competitions. Competitions introduce stress for everyone involved: those more skilled find stress in the thought of losing to someone less skilled. Trainees who are equally skilled become stressed in the race to win. And those who are less skilled experience stress in wanting to beat a more skilled opponent.

Besides noise, complicated instructions (complex goals) and competitions, instructors can add stress physiologically through force-on-force, Simunitions™ and peer grading. While the physiological is a great start, stress is best recreated with the thought of a physical consequence. Training without fear of a physical consequence causes trainees to ignore potential threats, thus adopting dangerous training habits. But when there is a perceived threat and potential harm, a trainee’s behavior changes significantly.

It is the perception of personal risk that creates the proper stress response required for stress inoculation training. This perception can come from multiple areas: being struck while wearing impact reduction suits in arrest and control training or even use of force on force training methods.

Threat-Fire Training

This psychological effect inspired VirTra to create the Threat-Fire®, a small electric impulse device that provides immediate consequences during training. Upon clipping the device onto their clothing, trainees understand the potential personal harm and are thus immersed in a stress-induced environment.

Instructors can use this device to supply negative consequences representing threats to the officer’s safety, such as gunfire, explosions or dog attacks. Not only does this allow for stress inoculation, it supplies realistic, scenario-applicable consequences to trainees.

Beyond adding psychological stress, the Threat-Fire increases simulation training realism by completing the interaction loop. Trainees can engage with simulated suspects who are able to physically engage back, changing one-sided interaction to a full circle.

This ties back to the idea of perceived threat. When interacting with an on-screen character, it becomes easy to disregard the dangerous situation shown on screen. But with the addition of a consequence device, the suspect can “shoot back,” closing the interaction loop and increasing the notion of a threat.

Stress is a powerful psychological tool that, when used correctly, will prepare trainees to perform effectively in tense situations of the field. Proper implementation helps teach stress inoculation, allowing trainees to learn critical skills that transfer to the field. Learn more about how VirTra’s simulators can teach your trainees stress inoculation by contacting a VirTra specialist.

  1. Kliem, Von. “New Study Tracks Officers’ Response to Stress During Calls for Service.” Force Science 7 Nov. 2019.

Stress is an essential addition to a trainee’s regime. Critical decision-making and problem solving become more difficult in a stress-induced atmosphere and requires plenty of practice to learn how to navigate these situations. If a law enforcement trainee cannot learn to execute the correct actions in a controlled environment, what are the chances they will in the unpredictable environment of the field?

There are multiple ways to introduce stress. However, keep in mind that these stressors should only be added after trainees are competent in the desired action or rule. Failure to understand a technique before the pressure is added will only result in confusion.

Motivation During Simulation Training

Administering pain, or threatening to, causes trainees to become anxious and compliant. Instructors can use this to their advantage, as physical pain removes the resistance of “I have to.” Use of force training is filled with commands which leaves students thinking “I have to complete this scenario” rather than “I am excited to learn from and engage in this scenario”.

Physical pain replaces this resistance with motivation while adding an extra layer of stress. Pain forces trainees to become engaged with the training scenario and teaches them to complete the exercise while overcoming the distraction due to the perceived risk of pain.

VirTra’s use of force simulations offer a pain element through the Threat-Fire®, a small box that clips onto a trainee’s belt. When activated by the instructor, the Threat-Fire releases a small electronic impulse that adds real-world consequences to the simulations. This effectively adds stress and emotion to the wearer while enhancing the effectiveness of simulation training.

Fear of Failure

Instructors can use their trainee’s fear of failure to their advantage. People are painfully familiar with negative emotions caused by failing—disappointment, anger, frustration, sadness—and strive to avoid these emotions. Add this to the idea of failing in front of peers and more negative emotions are added—embarrassment, shame—another avoidance.

Start by having trainees perform an exercise in front of their peers and watch as the added pressure sparks fear, motivation or anxiety. Overcoming this fear requires a significant amount of practice for both trainees and instructors, as instructors must learn to work with reactions ranging from forgetfulness to confidence.

Fear of failure comes with other training benefits. Continuing with the idea of performing in front of a class, students in the audience are inspired to learn from the mistakes and correct choices of those who have gone before. As students make the conscious decision to perform a certain way, even if it is to avoid embarrassment in front of an audience, the lesson is better remembered.

Simulator Training & Competition

Using competition as a stress-inducer is tricky, as the amount of stress created depends on the student. The goal of training competitions is to force trainees to focus on and complete a situation, to master corresponding physical and mental skills, with the added pressure to perform better than a competitor. The problem is that some trainees thrive in competition whereas others become flustered.

The type of pressure built also depends on the type of competition. Will the winner be the student who completes a scenario the quickest or the one who does a better job overall? If time is of the ultimate essence, students may forget a step as they race to the end. On the other hand, the stress of knowing they must follow a checklist of instructions perfectly, heightened by a competition, may cause forgetfulness. Practice placing trainees in a variety of competitions so they learn from different types of stress.

Stress and heightened emotion are powerful tools in the classroom. These components ensure trainees understand how to perform in the high-emotion situations they may face in the field. VirTra simulations are a great resource for adding stress while teaching students through a variety of situational outcomes. Contact us to learn more.

Train hard, stay safe and keep it consistent.

With a variety of ways to train your team with simulation, there are hundreds of combinations on how you can utilize scenarios in your agency. But which combination provides the level of psychological fidelity needed to induce stress so that your team will better prepare to face challenges in the field? A simple “shoot-don’t shoot” scenario may not be enough to induce stress. However, a combination of the VirTra V-300® and our Threat-Fire® feedback device induces a measurable amount of stress. According to a new clinical study between by the collaboration of the U.S. Army Research Lab, the University of Pennsylvania, as well as the University of California, there is a significant relationship between performance and stress. Read below for the full details:

Training + Stress= Results

Across the board, it might seem obvious that training with a VirTra simulator would produce better results for any student looking to improve their situational awareness, but trying to PROVE the correlation in a clinical setting is something else entirely. For the results to be statistically significant, there had to be numerous trials, and in this case, they have performed a total of 256 times. From that data, they were able to correlate the performance of the subjects of the trial with their stress response. Which means that the use of the system paired with the VirTra patented Threat-Fire induced the right amount of stress to impact their performance. By impacting their performance in a significant way, they are better able to perform properly in real-world situations. Each trainer can also review their performance together as a key differentiator for those looking to optimize law enforcement and military simulation training beyond the classroom.

How This Helps You

With the use of the patented Threat-Fire in the V-300 or any of our simulation environments, your team can produce the same stress reaction used in this independent study. By inducing stress in a controlled and safe environment, your team will be better prepared for the field. The clinical study also revealed that although initially the stress negatively impacted their performance, over time, the subjects were able to correct their performance and increase their accuracy. This paints a picture of what VirTra customers have come to love about the unique judgmental use of force training that VirTra offers. Without the ability to conduct proper stress inoculation, when the officers are out in the field, they can be more prone to react emotionally under pressure. However, by using the tools available from VirTra, these problems can be addressed to avoid negative headlines and let everyone go home safely at the end of the day.

In the long run, there is always room for improvement. The results from the study are just the start of something remarkable that shows that with the right amount of stress induced in the training environment that your team can learn how to react better under pressure. VirTra’s unique training content brings a level of realism unmatched by others, and the research shows the difference. By pairing the VirTra Threat-Fire with the immersive and adaptive scenarios available exclusively through VirTra, your team can see these changes in performance too.

Posted originally on blog.berettausa.com by Sara Ahrens on Tue, Jul 16, 2013 @ 07:30 AM

Introducing stress to a firearms training program can help inoculate shooters against stress and preventing panic. Those who consistently train outside their comfort zones will be better able to handle the stress brought about by competition, and even deadly force encounters. There are several methods that shooters can use to artificially replicate or heighten stress during training. Which training method to use is many times dictated by the location of the practice. Some training methods are not conducive to certain locations. Some more common methods law enforcement officers use in training to increase stress levels include: physical exertion / cardio and strength training exercises, use of a shot timer, competition between officers, the Dieter Drill (or Hood Drill), and reality-based training employing the use of airsoft, paintballs, or Simunitions® weapons, all the way to more complex simulators, like the VirTra System. Whatever method is used, it is critical that proper safeguards are identified and followed. (more…)