Serious gaming trains terrorism first responders

As the public and authorities adapt to the changing threat of terrorism, an EU-funded project is developing training for first responders to terrorist situations using gaming technology that integrates real-world data on how major attacks unfold.

Theme: Information society, International cooperation, SMEs, Security 
Framework programme: Horizon 2020 
Countries involved in the project: Belgium, Germany, Greece, Israel, Spain, United Kingdom

Terrorist events are frequently in our headlines, while the threat to public safety is constantly changing. Training first responders to deal with a terrorist situation is a complex task that involves coordination between many agencies and the latest knowledge on how to respond to an attack.

One of the biggest problems trainers face is gathering all the people from the many relevant organisations in one place. The EU-funded AUGGMED project has found a way to overcome this logistical challenge by developing serious game technology that can be used by trainers and trainees wherever they are based. Game-based training can also be quickly updated to the changing characteristics of terrorist attacks.

‘It is increasingly important to use modern technology to train first responders to a terrorist situation, while it is also difficult to create large-scale training exercises,’ says Babak Akhgar, professor of informatics and director of the CENTRIC research group at Sheffield Hallam University in the UK, and AUGGMED project technical partner. ‘First responders need to be prepared for an attack at all times and our platform can help them do that.’

Real-world locations and data
Current training methods for first responders, such as the police and fire brigade, include lessons in classrooms and live role play. These methods are often costly, time-consuming and logistically difficult.

‘Classroom exercises are the most widespread practice, but trainees often find this unengaging, while trainers and assessors find it hard to practically test if knowledge has been retained and understood,’ says Akhgar.

AUGGMED’s gaming platform simulates various contexts, including terrorist, explosives and weapon-threat situations in surroundings such as an airport, underground station or port cruise terminal. Furthermore, it simulates lower threat situations, such as unidentified object incidents.

The games help trainees develop skills like emotional management, analytical thinking, problem-solving and decision-making in highly stressful environments.

The software is designed not to be predictable and uses real-world data on how terrorist events may unfold. This covers large-scale crowd behaviour, information on explosive and standard ballistics – including the injuries a person could sustain from an explosion based on how close they are – and other civilian factors, such as how people avoid fires, crawl through smoke and lose consciousness if they inhale too much smoke.

In addition, the game’s virtual reality representations of real-world locations, including the Muntaner metro station in Barcelona, allows trainees to work in areas they are familiar with and would be relevant in real life.

Lower training costs
According to Akhgar, AUGGMED can achieve the same training outcomes as live role play but at a much lower cost. The project also allows training methods to be adapted quickly to new information about threats. For example, the third software pilot included a vehicle-attack training scenario made in response to updated threat assessments.

‘If AUGGMED were to be used by emergency services, it could cut the cost of training first responders and help prepare them for the practical and emotional skills needed to deal with the challenges they may encounter,’ says Akhgar.

Project details

  • Project acronym: AUGGMED
  • Participants: UK (Coordinator), Finland, Greece, Germany, Norway, Netherlands,Czechia, Spain
  • Project N°: 653590
  • Total costs: € 5 535 673
  • EU contribution: € 5 535 673
  • Duration: September June 2015 to May 2018

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