INTERSCHUTZ 2020, 15 - 20 June, Hannover/Germany

Learning to save lives in virtual reality

For several months, now, the German Red Cross (DRK) has been working with virtual reality at its school for rescue workers in Hannover, Germany. So when INTERSCHUTZ opens on 15 June 2020, the DRK’s trainers will be able to draw on a solid base of practical experience.

26 Aug. 2019
Stephan Weil
Stephan Weil, the Premier of the German state of Lower Saxony, tries out the "Virtual Rescue" simulator at the DRK rescue school in April of 2019

A classic rescue training scenario is an explosion in a subway station, resulting in mass casualties. Staging such a scenario in real life would require an enormous investment of materials, personnel and space.

But at the DRK’s rescue school in Hannover (the capital of the German state of Lower Saxony), all you need is a VR headset. If a trainee paramedic’s performance isn’t up to scratch, the exact same training scenario can be repeated as often as required until she gets it right.

Virtual Rescue

"Virtual Rescue" is a training program that uses virtual reality technology to achieve better and more comparable training outcomes for trainee paramedics and ER doctors. It can be used for triage training, for instance, where students learn to quickly determine which patients have suffered life-threatening injuries and require priority treatment. "Virtual Rescue" is one of the themes the German Red Cross will be presenting at INTERSCHUTZ 2020.

"The enormous effort and expense involved in staging real-life mass casualty training events has meant that not every rescue services professional has been able to receive practical training in these sorts of scenarios," explained Ralf Seebode, head of the DRK’s rescue school in Hannover. "That’s why ‘Virtual Rescue’ is such a major milestone for us. It’s thanks to this state-of-the-art technology that all of the participants in our training and professional development programs can now get the benefit of conducting practical, hands-on patient assessments in mass casualty scenarios."

All that is required to run "Virtual Rescue" training courses is a classroom, a high-spec notebook, a VR headset and a projector. The DRK is already planning to disseminate the technology.

"Apart from integrating ‘Virtual Rescue’ into our existing training programs at our rescue school in Lower Saxony, we will be rolling the technology out to other DRK facilities and rescue services organizations, and to our partners in the civil protection and disaster relief sectors."

Ralf Selbach, chairman of the board of the DRK Association in Lower Saxony

The DRK’s rescue school has been training emergency response personnel since 1969, including paramedics, emergency response trainers, rescue services volunteers, rescue station managers, ER doctors and ER directors. Around 1,500 students from all over Germany, including from organizations not associated with the DRK, take part in the school’s training programs every year.

Over 100 emergency response scenarios can be simulated at the school’s 1,200 square meter (13,000 sq. ft.) VR training center in Hannover, which, among much else, features a fully furnished apartment, a construction site, scaffolding, a workshop, a playground, a bus stop and pedestrian crossing, a truck cab and a state-of-the-art lighting and sound system. In addition, some 18 video cameras help the trainers to record and evaluate the students’ performance.

For more information on the DRK rescue school’s offering of training programs, visit (German only).