Severe Storm Recovery Simulation Released Free to First Responders

Around the anniversary of the Hurricane Katrina disaster, a new PC-based simulation that includes a severe storm recovery scenario is being made available to first responders and emergency personnel nationwide to help them train for multi-agency emergency situations.

Developed for the Department of Justice by BreakAway Ltd., developer of entertainment and serious games and simulation training tools, Incident Commander "provides a safe environment for first responders and multi-agency personnel to train, plan, and prepare for emergency and crisis situations," according to BreakAway founder and CEO Doug Whatley.

Up to 16 players can train simultaneously on Incident Commander. Users assume roles as either the commander or members of the operations team. The game simulates various crisis scenarios, including a natural disaster, a school hostage situation, and a terrorism incident, and can be customized with the addition of new locations, buildings, structures, crisis events, and emergency agencies to more accurately portray local community situations.

"To be successful, an incident commander and his or her team must be able to rapidly set up strategic staging areas for emergency personnel, allocate appropriate resources, and deploy appropriate tasks to public works, EMT, police and fire units," explains Lucien Parsons, director of Licensed Products for BreakAway's Federal Systems Division.

"Incident Commander allows users to do exactly that," Parsons continues, "by providing them with a detailed, fast-paced environment that simulates the life and death decision-making that first responders face in emergency situations."

For the severe storm recovery scenario, for example, users must deal with broken water mains, gas leaks, destroyed buildings, obstructed roads, injured civilians and trees blocking roads.

Joseph Barlow, an Adams County, Illinois emergency response team member who was deployed to Baton Rouge, Louisiana and helped set up an 800-bed hospital for citizens displaced by Katrina, notes, "I ended up being the logistics officer for the entire facility. It just so happens that I had spent the week before using Incident Commander in depth. The lessons learned by playing the simulation fed directly into the practices of setting up an incident command structure and then operating within that structure."

According to Mike O'Shea, project manager for the National Institute of Justice's Office of Science and Technology, Incident Commander provides the small-to-medium-size jurisdiction with "an effective, low-cost training simulation that not only better prepares first responders for a crisis, but does so in an entertaining and engaging medium."

The Department of Justice, which funded Incident Commander, will be distributing the simulation to first responders and emergency personnel free of charge.

To receive a copy, users will need to register at www.incidentcommander.net or at one of the training classes that the DOJ is holding at all major first responder conferences.

BreakAway currently is working on a new product that will expand on the capabilities of Incident Commander and enable users to more easily build their own environments and make real-time modifications to in-progress scenarios. It will be commercially available with an expected release date of 2007.

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