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First-Responder Testers Sought

DEVELOPMENTS intended for serious applications, such as military use or space flight, have often enhanced everyday life and leisure. Consider for example, that Defense Department technology led to the development of the Internet. The opposite case is also true, with video-game technology being adapted to help train first responders. One of the latest examples is Hazmat: Hotzone, a program being developed by the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon University in collaboration with the Fire Department of New York to train first responders to deal with hazardous materials.

An instructor creates a hazardous scenario in the program, determining the location of the hazard, its effects, weather conditions, the presence of victims, symptoms of victims, and other factors. Then groups of three to seven players who are first-responder trainees work as a team.

Each person is seated at a computer, which is networked with the others. One player becomes the incident commander and creates a decontamination zone. Communicating by hand-held radios, the other players virtually traverse the scene in an attempt to respond appropriately to the threat.

To test trainees, the instructor can trigger new developments in the scenario at any time, such as incapacitating a first responder who has taken an unsafe action. Exercises can be repeated to employ lessons learned.

Although the software isn’t set for release until spring 2007, the developers are seeking first responders to help beta test the program, starting in spring 2006. When complete, the software is expected to be distributed free of charge to fire departments throughout the United States.

If you wish to participate in the beta testing, sign up on the Hazmat: Hotzone mailing list and express your interest.