One of the biggest mistakes an instructor can make during any training that focuses on judgmental use of force is to limit the scenario to one officer. While officer involved shootings often do involve only one officer, the training provided shouldn’t focus only on such a possibility. The reality on the street is that there is a possibility that multiple officers will be involved. Unfortunately, the truth is that when multiple officers are involved, if one makes a mistake, others might follow due to a lack of understanding of the full circumstances or out of instinct.

The place to identify such potential misunderstandings and mistakes is in training evolutions. You can’t do that if you only put one officer at a time through scenario-based training simulations. Just like we see on the “square range” where officers are put in static positions to shoot paper targets without movement or threat, putting a single officer through projected simulation training is akin to checking off the right box on an administrative checklist for training. “State required annual judgmental shooting training: check.” That’s not training; that’s administrative fulfillment. Training prepares officers for the real world and how to avoid mistakes that can cost lives.

It’s also a mistake to assume that all projected simulation scenario-based training involves judgmental shooting or use-of-force type training. Training simulation has developed to empower de-escalation training skills as well. With a given simulation system such as the V-300®, you can teach basic firearms marksmanship, judgmental use of force and de-escalation training.

After-Action Reports

True training (as opposed to administrative requirement fulfillment) requires putting officers in dynamic, fluid yet controlled situations where more than one behavior or skill can be provoked and tested, followed by a review of the training evolution. To perform an accurate After-Action Review (AAR) of any training evolution, the best tool you can have is a recording – both audio and video – of the training incident as it evolved. This allows the instructor(s) to pause the recording in debrief to specify behaviors or skills that were either appropriate or need to be corrected. It’s been said that approximately 75% of all learning occurs during the AAR as opposed to the 25% that occurs while officers are actually going through the training evolution(s).

Additionally, the training environment should be created to mimic the actual operational environment as closely as possible. That means that projected simulation is only one part of the training. It is the centerpiece that is “decorated” by role players as bad guys, injured civilians, obstacles, sound pollution (noise) and unexpected sights/visuals. The single largest limitation on properly performed projected simulation training is your imagination. Further, if the projected simulation can saturate the trainee’s situational environment to a greater degree, then the training is of greater value. That means that it’s beneficial to have a system that surrounds the officer as much as possible as compared to having a single projected screen in front of the officer. “Surround simulation” if you will, requires greater awareness and interaction from the officer being trained.

Defining Responsibilities

With an understanding all of the above, planning your training is critical. You need to know what your setting will be and how much you can modify it as well as how many instructors and role players you will have available. Any officer who is going to be a role player needs to be carefully choreographed. They need to have a very clear understanding of their purpose in drawing out the desired behaviors and/or skills of the officers going through the training evolution. The role players need to be carefully controlled so they don’t improvise in any manner that may detract from the training value of the scenario.

All of the responsibilities need to be clearly defined for the entire training staff. From the exercise controller (lead Instructor) to the Safety Officer to the Role Players, each participant needs to know their roles. Trainers need to establish who will be responsible for capturing each training evolution for use in the AARs?

The lead instructor, with assistance and inputs from the assistant instructors, should develop the training scenarios, effectively designing each simulation to include a full list of the desired behavioral objects, skill objectives, judgmental objectives, etc. All training objectives and desired behaviors should be clearly defined as benchmarks for each evolution. Any changes that occur to the setting between evolutions should be outlined. This is important as we all know students who go through the scenario will immediately tell the other students what they experienced, thereby setting up expectations. Being able to thwart those expectations adds to the unpredictable nature of each scenario.

As each student, pair of students or group of students goes through a training evolution, the immediate AAR should be limited to the “big” items that need to be corrected and/or positively reinforced. Both offer learning moments and should be utilized. AARs should never be purely negative. Corrections for deficiencies as well as praise for proper performance should be included. That said, immediately following a scenario, the major items of correction/praise should be reviewed. All other in-depth and detailed AAR items should be saved for later in a classroom. It’s important to remember that the entire group of students, not just those going through a particular scenario, can learn from the AAR of other scenarios.

Adding Stress to Simulation Training

One of the biggest learning tools for any projected simulation scenario-based training is adding stress. Some “shoot back” systems offer a pain penalty as they can hit the student with a non-lethal projectile if proper cover isn’t used. The downside of such shoot back systems is that a material that is NOT cover but is instead merely concealment can stop the projectile. Such an event actually serves to reinforce an improper behavior: seeking cover behind insufficient material…using concealment as cover. This is a mistake that can be life-threatening in the real world and should be avoided in training situations. The system used should allow the instructor to deliver the penalty in such situations.

VirTra’s V-Threat-Fire® allows for instructors to deliver a penalty without having to worry about aiming a shoot-back system first. Additionally, it includes a greatly reduced risk of personal injury and no clean up after the simulation is completed.

Finally, while most projected simulation training scenarios focus on a single behavior as the major pass/fail point (shoot / don’t shoot as the example), the situations and scenarios that lead up to that point are vast and, if used properly, can allow the instructor to evaluate a host of trainee behavioral objectives. Instructors who teach conflict resolution may be familiar with Boyd’s decision-making cycle: Observe, Orient, Decide, Act (often referred to as OODA loops because they are repeated until conflict is resolved). While many instructors use projected simulation-based training to evaluate the ‘Act’ step of that cycle, the more important Observe, Orient and Decide steps can be evaluated and critiqued if the simulation is used to its full potential. Instructors should realize that most student officers make mistakes in the decision making that leads up to their action. The action might be correct based on their observations, orientation and decision, but if they’ve made mistakes in their observation or made an incorrect decision, how do you correct that? Through a properly performed AAR supported by the audio/video playback of a scenario.

Not all projected simulation scenario equipment supports all of the necessities to deliver training as outlined above. For more information on systems that do, feel free to reach out to a product specialist.

Originally published on

Humans have a strong drive to protect their own lives – and to a greater degree – that of their offspring. How do you get peace officers to overcome their own self-preservation drives to go help others? The bigger question is: How do you get them comfortable with being in those life-ending situations and allow them to cognitively work through the challenges they are going to face? Creative problem solving is compromised with high levels of sympathetic nervous system arousal, which is part of the fight, flight, freeze, posture, or submit response we see in humans. An illustration of this comes from Mike Tyson’s quote, “Everyone has a plan until you punch them in the mouth.”

How do you get peace officers comfortable in life-or-death situations and mitigate them from being overwhelmed with the negative effects? Simply, you have to put them in events just like these and get them comfortable being there. Put them repeatedly in situations that simulate the threat to their mortality. The question is how?

One path to this is to train jujitsu. I specifically name jujitsu because the goal of this martial art is to place your opponent’s body – or parts of it – in a position that could cause them to lose consciousness or break a limb. Hold it long enough and the person can die. Participating in jujitsu places you in a position where someone else is intentionally positioning themselves to injure or even kill you. You have to learn early on how to navigate between being in danger and being close to danger – there is a difference. Having someone’s arm around your neck ready to restrict the flow of oxygenated blood as they are trying to get it into the right position using pressure that will surely cause you to pass out, and being comfortable with that, is a learned skill. Learning to be that close to danger and be able to maintain composure and the ability to problem solve occurs with many repetitions of being in that situation.

The VirTra simulators are another way to produce contextually rich environments that threaten the safety of the participants. The context comes from the high-quality filming of the characters in realistic environments, and the threat to safety comes from the V-Threat-Fire®. The V-Threat-Fire is paired with an on-screen threat such as a gunshot, stabbing, explosion, etc. If an officer does not mitigate the risk to their safety, the device is activated and the electric shock causes pain. A threat action can occur on-screen at any point, and if you do not stop it, you will feel the sting of the V-Threat-Fire. Similar to the need to block an arm to prevent a choke: miss it, and its tap-out or blackout.

We need to do more than just stress exposure. We need to do stress inoculation which includes the development of coping strategies and skills under threat conditions. This is missed in law enforcement. Do you want them to get used to going into harm’s way and be able to do it when called upon? Then you have to provide the type of training and the frequency of training that conditions this response. This is a perishable skill that needs ongoing reinforcement.

VirTra is excited to announce the V-Threat-Fire®: the third generation of powerful, consequence-inducing devices! This accessory is simple: attach the small device to the belt area of the trainee and when a psychological representation of an attack is necessary—say, simulated return fire, dog bites or explosions—instructors can activate the device. Instructors can choose whether the V-Threat-Fire emits an electric impulse from 0.2 seconds to 1 second, thus adding stress and realistic, safe ‘return fire’ or other negative consequences to the training simulator.

What Makes V-Threat-Fire Unique

One of the most unique abilities about the V-Threat-Fire is the vibration ability. The V-Threat-Fire can also deliver vibrations only, allowing instructors to provide feedback without the electric impulse. Both the vibration and electric impulse versions are strong enough to penetrate through multiple layers of clothing for easy training with miniscule risk of any injury.

Regardless of which mode is selected, the V-Threat-Fire is safe and simple. For instructors, there is no need to focus on aiming, maintaining protective gear or cleaning up. This is because the V-Threat-Fire is activated via the Instructor’s Station, the same place where the training scenario is managed. Now, instructors can devote their visual focus to training—no need to visually multi-task.

Why V-Threat-Fire is Superior in Training

Not all consequence devices are created equal, and as such, instructors need to be aware of the stress-inducing device they select. Below are a few of the more popular, and reasons to be wary:

  • Fired Projectiles: Firing projectiles—whether through a shoot-back cannon or hand-held cannon—is dangerous. Even with safety equipment on, small projectiles could hit trainees in sensitive areas like the eyes, be a tripping hazard if the trainee is moving around the simulator and requires cleanup after each use.
  • Loud Noises: Sound devices emit a piercing sound designed to over-simulate the senses, with some reaching sound levels up to 120 decibels. The Hearing Health Foundation states that sound 115 dB or higher can damage a person’s hearing within under 30 seconds of exposure to the noise.
  • Flashing Lights: According to the CDC, flashing lights can be hazardous, as about 1.8% of American adults experience epilepsy. In rare cases, trainees may not know they are epileptic until experiencing a seizure caused by flashing lights.

While other companies attempt to create distraction or consequence devices, none are without serious side effects or potential personal harm. The best way to create stress and implement immediate consequences is through V-Threat-Fire’s vibrations or electric impulse. This provides all the stress of the real-world without requiring extra protective equipment, breaking training immersion or causing additional harm.

Contact a Sales representative to learn more about implementing V-Threat-Fire into your current training regimen!

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 threats 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. This continues to happen 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. This provides 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. The V-Threat-Fire is activated via the Instructor’s Station, so 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. 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. 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 watch the video below:

Over the past few years, several types of consequence devices and “pain penalties” have been integrated into law enforcement training sessions. Instructors initiate these so trainees experience a potential negative consequence after performing an incorrect action—both teaching and enveloping the trainee in stress (Central Nervous System arousal) for the duration of the session. Stress then becomes a fundamental part of learning, as trainees learn to control their responses and function under pressure, which applies to the field.

Learning from Stress with Use of Force Training Simulators

However, these benefits only occur when the proper consequence or “feedback” device is used. Not just any device will work—the tool must be safe and effective to be considered an operative training supplement.

To explain the purpose of these simulation training tools, one must understand what the tools should not do. Many consequence devices are “shoot back” devices meant to simulate return fire. But by solely using devices as gunfire penalties, instructors are limiting a trainee’s learning and stress inoculation. VirTra recommends using feedback devices to also simulate explosions, dog bites, knife attacks, punches and other actions that would cause injury in the field.

As mentioned before, another primary function is stress inoculation. While physical pain penalties can teach trainees proper actions, the knowledge that one may be shocked causes the trainee stress (arousal) and increased physiological state. The simulation no longer becomes a game—it becomes a situation where they must control their physiological arousal to perform their best.

The Good

While good consequence devices can be used for stress inoculation and provide real-life consequences, they must be effective and safe. VirTra ensures trainees have minimal risk of personal injury and can experience stress within the judgmental use of force simulator with Threat-Fire®. The device attaches to the belt and is instructor initiated, providing the trainee with a small electric stimulation on the surface of the skin when needed. Its lightweight design, adjustable shock duration and training enhancement features make it the perfect addition to police training simulators.

The Bad & The Ugly

However, not all consequence devices are created equal! Some outdated stress-inducing methods include firing actual projectiles during the scenario. This can be dangerous, as small projectiles could hit trainees in the eye, and require cleaning up after every use. Most trainers have moved away from projectile-based penalties, but there are other devices that are just an ineffective and harmful. These devices also distract the training from student performance while they are aiming the device.

Some new stress-inducing electronic devices include rapidly flashing lights to confuse the senses. According to the CDC, flashing lights could be hazardous as about 1.8% of American adults experience epilepsy. In rare cases, some trainees may not know they are epileptic until experiencing a seizure triggered by flashing lights.

These devices also are equipped with a piercing sound designed to over-simulate the senses, with some reaching sound levels up to 120 decibels (dB). The Hearing Health Foundation states that sounds 115 dB or higher can damage a person’s hearing within under 30 seconds of exposure to the noise.

While flashing lights and piercing noises are indeed distracting, they have two big downfalls. One is their lack of realism. The second is that this additional light and noise masks critical information that should be coming from the simulation.

Trainees cannot effectively learn from feedback devices such as these. Instead, with VirTra’s Threat-Fire, trainees are provided with a powerful, realistic consequence that safely provides stress-inoculation. Furthermore, the Threat-Fire completes the interaction loop; in training, the trainee engages simulated suspects and now the simulated suspects engage the trainee in a safe, responsible manner.

Training environments are a safe, controlled environment where students and trainees are able to make mistakes, learn and overcome them before entering the field. If the risks of injury are high, training becomes a dangerous task and may cause deep training scars. Providing stress and real-life consequences in a simulated environment is an effective way to prepare officers and warfighters in training, but note the good, bad and ugly ways of doing so. Research extensively before investing in a feedback device. For more information about the Threat-Fire, such as research articles published or case studies produced, please contact a VirTra specialist.

TEMPE, AZ – August 14, 2009 – VirTra Systems, Inc. Bob Ferris, VirTra Systems’ CEO and president (OTC:VTSI.PK), today announced that VirTra has officially launched its newest and smallest Threat-Fire™ device, the V-Threat-Fire™.

VirTra’s V-Threat-Fire device safely simulates the pain of hostile return fire with a 300 millisecond electric stun (adjustable to 2.5 seconds). Enemies often try to use the element of surprise and this training accessory is being used worldwide to better prepare trainees. The V-Threat-Fire is a clip-on return fire simulator, similar in function to the Threat-Fire belt; however, the V-Threat-Fire is designed to clip-onto an officer or soldier’s duty belt for maximum efficiency. V-Threat-Fire is not only small, lightweight and designed to be unobtrusive, but it is also rechargeable and compatible with VirTra’s wireless system.  VirTra contends that adding V-Threat-Fire to a simulator provides more realistic and thorough training, with trainees experiencing heightened nervousness and stress during the simulated situation.

“We are thrilled and excited to announce our latest Threat-Fire technology, the V-Threat-Fire. Customers continue to tell us that our Threat-Fire™ line of return fire products have greatly increased the effectiveness of simulation training and version 2 will add a new advantage with its new and virtually undetectable size,” said Bob Ferris, CEO and President of VirTra Systems.

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