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Play2Train: Serious Games For Emergency Preparedness

Via: PLAY2TRAIN Project

Play2Train is a virtual training space in Second Life designed to support Strategic National Stockpile (SNS), Simple Triage Rapid Transportation (START), Risk Communication and Incident Command System (ICS) Training.

This virtual environment spreads over two islands, Asterix and Obelix, with one island dedicated to a virtual town and the other to a virtual hospital.

Play2Train provides opportunities for training through interactive role playing and is the foundation for the emergency preparedness educational machinima. This project implements one of the distance learning methodologies proposed by the IBAPP project (Idaho Bioterrorism Awareness and Preparedness Program).

Dr Ramesh Ramloll, Dr Jaishree Beedasy-Ramloll and the Play2Train team from Idaho State University’s Institute of Rural Health, are working on this virtual reality computer world they hope will help first responders, first receivers and other health care professionals prepare for disasters. Participants can set up “avatars who can participate in training exercises.

According to Dr Ramloll, Play2Train could eventually replace physical dioramas, commonly used by emergency services personnel when they train for disasters, in a way that holds the interest of participants longer than the current training approaches.

He adds that their goal is to allow trainees, instructors, observers and evaluators to meet in a virtual space to take part in table-top exercises, follow courses, watch streaming educational videos together and get exposed to novel emergency response equipment.

The Play2Train project is one of the first projects in Second Life to receive significant federal funding.

The virtual training space Play2Train was recently demonstrated at a congressional meeting in Washington DC and attracted substantial interest from participants and the media. The team has also presented at other venues where it has been very well received, such as the Public Health Preparedness Summit in Washington DC, the ISCA International Conference on Computers and their Applications in Seattle and the American Telemedicine Association (ATA) conference in Nashville.

The next presentation is scheduled for August 2007 in Atlanta at the Public Health Information Network (PHIN) conference. The Play2Train effort includes collaborators such as the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) and several departments at US Universities e.g. the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Center for Advanced Distance Learning Education(CADE).

Degree of Realism

The Play2Train research team suggests that the degree of realism can play an important role in the level of engagement of the trainees in the exercises.
Play2Train allows those setting up training scenarios to add simulated weather conditions such as snowfall, rain and lightning. They think all these little details can add to the level of engagement that an environment can provide. In addition, the ability of participants to wear virtual uniforms to remind them of their specific job functions, the ability to interact with virtual emergency devices also boost significantly the range of possible training scenarios in such environments.

Virtual tabletop exercises held in Play2Train include Healthcare Facility “Sidewalk Triage” for an Avian Flu Pandemic, Alternative Care Facility Mobile Quarantine and Town Hall Meeting.