Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Simulation Software is Cost-Effective for Emergency Response Training

When it comes to training for mission critical tasks, emergency response and first responder rank as some of the most important and difficult activities to train for. In today's economy, where emergency management agencies worldwide are finding their budgets slashed, it's becoming even harder to train for disasters. This is where simulation-based training software comes in, a safe and cost-effective method to train for something you hope may never happen, but something agencies must be prepared for. Simulation-based training is used to prepare for every kind of emergency, from public health, to hazardous materials, to natural disasters, to homeland security threats.

Last month an article in Emergency Management magazine included the following quote from Dale Hall, former director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Engineering Laboratory:
"Simulation is a valuable tool for emergency response and can be used for vulnerability assessment, planning, training and decision support. It was identified as the only feasible approach when it is difficult to do real-life experiments, as is the case for homeland security applications."
The article references a number of different emergency response training simulator systems that are currently in use to provide training and education to first responders.

Advanced Disaster Management Simulator

The New York City Office of Emergency Management has partnered with Environmental Tectonics Corp. to use their Advanced Disaster Management Simulator. The software allows them to test their ability to implement the citywide incident management system. High-fidelity 3D graphics, complex interactivity, and audio create a highly immersive, chaotic and stressful environment for first responders to train in.



HYDRA Simulator

The Los Angeles Police Department is the first governmental agency in the US to deploy a HYDRA simulator, an immersive simulator for critical incident training. The simulator system, located in the Ahmanson Recruit Training Center, allows the police to train for everything from earthquakes to acts of terrorism, which may give law enforcement a significant advantage during the next disaster.

Ops-Plus

Dartmouth College's Interactive Media Laboratory and Institute for Security Technology Studies created the Ops-Plus for WMD Hazmat program to help first responders train for terrorism response. Ops-Plus, part of the Virtual Terrorism Response Academy, allows officials to train in an immersive 3D environment for threats ranging from chemical, to biological, to radiological, to nuclear.

It requires highly specialized training to be a first responder when it comes to disasters. Using immersive 3D simulators to train for disaster management allows first responders to gain this training without having to put themselves in harm's way. There may be no better way to develop first responder skills than to experience an actual disaster, but real-world disasters are rare and no place for inexperienced responders to gain on-the-job training. Disaster training simulators enable life-like training that can help agencies develop disaster management strategies that can ultimately save lives in a real-world disaster.
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