U.S. Army Trains Teachers Against School Shootings with Simulated Video Game EDGE
Gizmodo recently produced an important video interview on the use of EDGE, or Enhanced Dynamic Geo-Social Environment, developed by the U.S. Army and the Homeland Security Department. But not in the context of a military engagement or police emergency scene, but inside a school. Sad as it is that this is the world we live in, our community can’t argue against the benefits of simulated training, no matter how horrendous the circumstance. Educators can act as different roles, making the game extremely interactive, so that they can get the best perspective about “what works and doesn’t” in such dangerous situations. Anyone connected with U.S. government backed emergency services can download EDGE through the link below. Mark our words, within the next two decades, video game simulations will become an integral part of all high-risk hands-on training programs — in every industry.
The Enhanced Dynamic Geo-Social Environment (EDGE) is a multiplayer, scalable, online training environment for first responders—single agencies or across agency, jurisdiction, or discipline—for a coordinated response to critical incidents. Built on the Unreal Engine, the platform allows responders of all disciplines to assume discipline-based avatars and simultaneously role-play complex response scenarios. The first scenario, an active shooter incident at a local hotel, brings law enforcement, fire, emergency medical services, dispatch, and unified command together. This EDGE scenario is now available for free to all U.S. first responder agencies.
In building this new simulation, the EDGE engineering team listened to dispatch audio from Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook in order to incorporates a number of grim realities into the simulation. Potential shooting victims can be both adults or children who are attempting to circumvent locked doors and shattering windows. Those adults and children also panic and flee instead of trying to stay together. The audio, echoing gunshots and children wailing, is at times, unbearable.
But from this, the developers have incorporated essential survival tactics. In the chaos, prompts on the screen indicate best practices: locking doors, staying away from windows, lining up students against the walls, and quickly finding items that can serve as barricades. Administrators can also run the EDGE simulation with different tools, like an intercom system or automated locks. Griffith hopes that by running the simulation in different roles and with different security options, teachers can remain focused and calm if they find themselves in the middle of a mass shooting.
“With teachers, they did not self-select into a role where they expect to have bullets flying near them. Unfortunately, it’s becoming a reality,” Griffith said. “And so we want to give them that chance to understand what options are available to them and what might work well for them.”
It’s a dark irony that after 1999’s Columbine High School shooting, parents, teachers, and lawmakers tried to blame video games. Now, in 2018, VR simulations are attempting to prepare parents and teachers to save lives during similar shootings. Our relationship with technology has changed immensely in 20 years, but the violence and heartache of school shootings seems cyclical, rooted in something VR can perhaps mitigate—but never truly solve.
EDGE is a game-based software training application that emphasizes flexibility and ease-of-use. EDGE’s First Responder Sandbox (FRS) is designed to allow responders to train for coordinated response to various types of emergency events (e.g., active shooter, hostage, fire, mayhem) both in a virtual environment via the Internet or locally in a classroom environment. Available training roles in FRS v1.2.1 include: law enforcement, firefighter, EMS, dispatcher, unified command, civilians, and suspect. Instructors and role players may enhance training by participating as armed suspects or unarmed civilians.
EDGE is a training environment that is intended to be a group tool where multiple trainees can assume any of the roles above to execute the desired training. It is not intended to be a single-trainee environment. EDGE is not a training course in the traditional sense, but rather it is a tool instructors use to train their first responder teams in a safe environment, where scenarios can be changed or re-run as many times as necessary to provide a wide range of training possibilities. EDGE also has an after-action review capability where training sessions can be replayed with full pause, rewind, and fast-forward controls to highlight key training points.
Agency budgets often limit the amount of live training that first responders can conduct or participate in. The EDGE platform, while not intended to replace live training, provides the perfect way to augment and reinforce live training without the cost of a full-up live exercise.
EDGE is available free of charge to all first responder organizations, including: Federal, state, local, tribal, or territorial government law enforcement organizations, fire fighting organizations, validated for profit emergency medical services organizations, or emergency management organizations.
EDGE capabilities include:
- Administrative / Instructor Tools
- Interactive Dialog System
- Inventory System
- Vehicle Support
- Customizable Player Classes
- Multiplayer Network
- Voice over IP (VOIP) Communication
- Scalable Artificial Intelligence Driven Non-player Characters / Role Players
- Interoperability with Legacy Simulations via JBUS
- Collaboration Tools such as the Shared Vision File / Web-Browser and Interactive Whiteboard
- Context-Sensitive User Interface
- Physics Controllable Kinematic Skeletal Animation System
- Fully functional fire and smoke propagation system
- Weapon Models
- Character Damage Models