First responders of all disciplines will now be able to train together for active shooter and other critical incidents thanks to a new virtual training platform made available by the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T) and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory (ARL). The Enhanced Dynamic Geo-Social Environment (EDGE) training platform was officially launched today and is available to first responders nationwide at no cost. EDGE is a multiplayer, scalable, online environment that trains responders—single agencies or cross-agency, jurisdiction, or discipline—for a coordinated response to active shooter incidents.
Built on the Unreal gaming engine, which powers such popular interactive video games as Mortal Kombat, BioShock, and Batman: Arkham City, EDGE allows responders to collaboratively role-play complex scenarios in a virtual environment, improving coordination and communication while mitigating injuries and loss of lives. S&T’s First Responders Group (FRG) developed the technology with the U.S. Army Research Laboratory’s Simulation and Training Technology Center and Cole Engineering Services, Inc. These partners will join FRG staff and first responder stakeholders in facilitating the demonstration and answering press questions.
“In this day and age, it is essential that responders have every tool at their disposal to prepare for and respond to critical incidents,” said William N. Bryan, DHS Under Secretary (Acting) for Science and Technology. “When decisions must be made in a matter of seconds, every bit of training helps to save civilian and responder lives. EDGE harnesses the power of cutting-edge gaming and defense technology to make training accessible, engaging, and affordable to all responders—from rural volunteers to those serving our major metropolitan areas.”
The EDGE virtual training platform was developed and tested with direct input from the first responder community. The initial scenario—a hotel active shooter response—features avatars, equipment, vehicles, and architecture designed completely to scale, using as a backdrop Sacramento, California, where initial EDGE prototype pilots were conducted.
“We wanted to create a platform that could instantly be used by response agencies to meet specific training needs, using their own standard operating procedures,” said Milt Nenneman, EDGE program manager for S&T’s First Responders Group. “Any responder with Internet access and a computer can now use the platform for free.”
S&T developed the technology with ARL’s Simulation and Training Technology Center and Cole Engineering Services, Inc. “EDGE was developed by ARL in conjunction with the Training and Doctrine Command, as a platform that could be shared across all government organizations and agencies,” explains Tami Griffith, engineer at ARL-Orlando. “Our relationship with DHS shows we’ve not only met those goals but it has allowed us to stimulate one another’s work, sometimes leapfrogging each other to meet objectives as they unfold. Ultimately, this led to a significant reduction in the overall cost of development for both the Army and DHS while supporting continued enhancements.”
Cole Engineering will now distribute EDGE to all interested response agencies and provide related technical support. First responder agencies may contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 877-EDGE-011 (877-334-3011) to obtain a free copy of EDGE.
“What a great collaboration between S&T, the U.S. Army, and local fire, EMS, and police agencies,” said Los Angeles Fire Department Battalion Chief Andrew Wordin, an advisor from the start of EDGE development. “When we work together to plan and train, we are able to prepare for all types of incidents, which will keep the public safer. EDGE is just the beginning of bringing new technology to the first responder community all across the nation, allowing responders to be ready for the most catastrophic events in our communities.”
“For me, working with Homeland Security to better prepare first-responders for all-too-common active shooter, school shooting, and complex coordinated attack incidences has been one of the most fulfilling experiences of my career,” Griffith added. “Immersing first responders in safe-yet-threatening situations, improves critical thinking and team problem solving; experience can save lives.”
Stay tuned: a second EDGE virtual training scenario featuring a school shooting response will be released in fall 2017. Meanwhile, visit http://scitech.dhs.gov/first-responder or contact email@example.com for additional information.