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Computer And Video Games Are New Tools In Emergency Situations

by Rainier on Jan. 7, 2010 @ 9:57 a.m. PST

According to the ESA, computer and video games prove to be effective tools for simulating and training emergency responders for real-life disaster situations, but as the technology advances and the number of players expand, games may eventually play an even larger role in emergency response and preparedness.

Last month, New York State authorities announced that they are testing a new safety initiative that would incorporate video game consoles into the state's emergency alert system via online gaming networks. The announcement came at New York's Interop Conference, a business technology event focused on promoting new innovations in information technology. New York State Deputy CIO Rico Singleton said that the process is currently in its testing phase, but that the state is working harder to expand its communications efforts through online channels to ensure that emergency alerts reach as many New Yorkers as possible.

Meanwhile, students in New Jersey classrooms began using a new disaster recovery game to learn the critical skills needed to respond to disasters from a business perspective. SPILL, funded by Deloitte & Touche, presents students with a virtual world disaster for which they must develop a recovery plan within the confines of the business world. Students learn environmental and business concepts like negotiation, teamwork and ethics, all while balancing budgetary issues and quality control with the urgency of disaster relief.

These recent initiatives are not isolated cases; in fact, the U.S. government has made investments in video game technology as emergency preparedness learning tools. Last March, the Department of Homeland Security provided a $4.8 million grant to the National Emergency Medical Services Preparedness Initiative to develop a video game with George Washington University that allows paramedics, EMT's and other emergency responders to develop their disaster preparedness skills on the virtual scene of a large-scale crisis. From pandemics to earthquakes, players learn about the equipment needed for particular disasters, what to ask victims, triage, and how to effectively manage something as seemingly unmanageable as a large-scale disaster.

As both public and private sector organizations look for new ways to prepare for all kinds of disasters, computer and video games provide a unique opportunity for emergency responders and citizens to train and prepare for real-world situations in a virtual world. With 68 percent of American households playing computer and video games, their use as a disaster resource could become even more widespread in the years to come.

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