CRISIS simulator bases scenarios on real emergencies

A €3.5 million computerised simulation training system that will put airport emergency response teams through scenarios based on real-life incidents is being built by a consortium led by researchers at Middlesex University.

CRISIS – CRitical Incident management training System using an Interactive Simulation environment – will offer scaled training levels for emergency and security personnel, ranging from basic drills to sophisticated random-event emergency scenarios that unfold with the unpredictability likely in actual emergency situations. At this level the duration of the exercise will not be predetermined – it could last for a couple of hours or as long as a day.

Using standard PC interfaces with specially-adapted head displays with goggles, up to 20 trainees can use CRISIS on an individual basis ‘playing against’ it, or collectively against members of other teams logged-on at other locations. The platform is being built around the Unity3D game development tool, with middleware that will integrate multimedia communications content elements from actual emergencies into training scenarios.

“CRISIS will give a real taste of the crisis environment for people who deal with major incidents such as air crashes, airport security, and war zones, where there is no sequence to incidents – they happen at random,” explains Professor William Wong, who leads Human-Computer Interaction at Middlesex University’s School of Engineering and Information Sciences. “Being able to deal with the element of unexpectedness is crucial to decision training.”

No two CRISIS scenarios will follow the same pattern of events, Professor Wong adds: “It creates situations where trainees have to show the ability to think for themselves, and not just react in accordance to pre-programmed requirements.”

Another innovative function is the ability to provide trainees with assessments of how well they reacted to the emergencies that they were confronted with, and suggestions on how they could have handled them more effectively.

CRISIS is funded through the EU’s 7th Framework Programme Security Theme. As well as co-ordinating the three-year project, the Middlesex team will also manage the research thread that focuses on team decision-making, and how different teams’ interactions alter as a result of crisis change.

Its 12 partners are drawn from across Europe, and include security management firm VSL Systems, and Linköping University, both from Sweden; the University of Iceland; along with security firms, systems developers to be named. Testing partners include Aeroportos de Portugal (ANA), Icelandic airport administrator Isavia, and the British Transport Police.

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