Program Trains Teachers, Students to Deal with School Shootings

06 January, 2018

Gun violence is a reality of American life. Across the country, at least 12 people were shot to death on the first day of 2018.

A shooting can happen anywhere: in homes, businesses, on the street, and in schools.

There were nine school shootings in the United States in 2017. They left 15 people dead and 18 others wounded.

Now, a new simulation program is designed to help keep teachers and students safe from a shooter.

The program is like a million other video games available. But this one is not really a game. It is meant to let the user experience what happens when a gunman enters a school. This simulation is difficult to watch, but the programmers say it can save lives.

The simulator is a project of the United States Army and Department of Homeland Security. The program is available through an online training program called EDGE. That is short for the Enhanced Dynamic Geo-Social Environment.

Bob Walker works as EDGE project manager. He says the simulation lets teachers choose and test several plans of action for dealing with a gunman.

Walker provided an example: the mass shooting at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in 2007. Thirty-two students and teachers died in the attack. Some Virginia Tech teachers found setting up barriers behind doors worked very well.

"So this gives school districts the ability to try out different things, see what works for their given environment."

The goal is to give teachers, administrators, and even police a chance to virtually walk through an active shooter event at a school.

Tamara Griffith works at the Army Research Laboratory.

"So, experience builds survivability. The more experience you have, the better your chances of survival are.

Griffith adds that the simulation helps users prepare for an attack. She says they can have different experiences, and see what works and what doesn't work."

Griffith helped to develop the simulator. She says creating the program was difficult for everyone involved. She says the group sat down and listened to police dispatch tapes from earlier shootings. She says they were frightened when they thought about what was happening during those attacks. But their goal was to better prepare law enforcement officers and others who have to deal with shootings.

The shooters, children and administrator in the game operate using artificial intelligence. This enables the programmers to test different safety methods to see how they work.

The simulation is shocking and unpleasant. But the programmers say they are doing their best to prepare teachers for the worst that might happen.

Tamara Griffith agrees.

"We can prevent a lot of these deaths. We can prepare people better. We can make this a safer environment if we can get this into the hands of the right people."

The program is already being used to train some emergency crews in the United States. The Army Research Lab plans to make a school version available soon, without cost to users.

I'm Jonathan Evans.

Kevin Enochs reported this story for VOANews. George Grow adapted his report for Learning English. Mario Ritter was the editor.


Words in This Story

simulationn. something that is made to look or behave like something else

virtually adj. involving an experience provided by a computer program; a world of images and sounds made by a computer

artificial intelligencen. the ability of computers to copy human behavior, such as making decisions or offering suggestions

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