CDC turns to virtual reality to prep for disasters.

cdc virtual reality prep 1

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wants its emergency workers to be prepared for the sights, sounds and smells of death and disaster, and it’s increasingly turning to virtual reality to emotionally “vaccinate” workers for such scenarios.

The CDC on Thursday awarded a $626,000 contract to a Decatur, Ga.-based company, Virtually Better Inc., for the third phase of a pilot program that uses an immersive virtual reality training tool to prepare first-responders for real-world crises, The Washington Post reports.

Trainees will be exposed to a simulated disease outbreak or disaster environment featuring two to three dozen “sights, sounds, smells or ideas,” according to the Post.

Barbara Reynolds, a CDC psychologist and spokesperson who tried out the pilot equipment, described her experience to the Post:

“I was in this small village with thatched roofs and a few cinderblock buildings. There were bodies stacked up that had died from something unknown. There were security guards with weapons protecting the place. Women were wailing for their deceased relatives.”

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