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First Responders Use Gaming System Behind 'Mortal Kombat' for Disaster Training

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The Homeland Security Department’s new training pilot might look familiar to fans of "Mortal Kombat" and "Bioshock."

DHS is testing out a new simulation platform—the same one that powers those and other popular commercial games—to prepare first responders for active-shooter incidents. First responders play as themselves or as the shooter, depending on the training scenario, and can either play within their agencies or collaborate with others.

The simulation, called the Enhanced Dynamic Geo-Social Environment, or EDGE, has a loose narrative in which an active shooter carrying Molotov cocktails enters a hotel and takes a hostage. Responders including law enforcement, firefighters and emergency medical services staff assume avatars and attempt to minimize the damage. The game doesn’t have a pre-determined ending, so trainers can adapt the scenario depending on the lessons they hope to teach.

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DHS’ Science and Technology Directorate unveiled the hotel scenario last week.

EDGE is designed to be “completely true-to-life,” Milt Nenneman, a program manager within S&T’s first responder group, said in a statement. Details in the virtual hotel—layout, elevators, even the bedspreads—mimic those of a real hotel in Sacramento, he explained. In EDGE, first responders have access to the same tools and personal protective equipment they’d have in real life.

The system allows first responders in disparate locations train with each other without having to travel to one place, according to S&T.

DHS researchers worked with the U.S. Army’s research laboratory on the simulation. The same team is developing another, involving a school shooter, in the fall.

“These types of incidents are now an unfortunate reality, and when schools come under fire everybody becomes a first responder,” Nenneman said in a statement. That scenario is being designed to train them to barricade classrooms and rapidly evacuate students.

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