Video game to teach disaster preparedness

Interesting article in today's Boston Globe about using video games to teach healthcare workers disaster preparedness:Video game paints a grim scenario (free for a couple of days). After the problems in responding to Katrina made it clear that there's still much work to be done to prepare for another disaster, either natural or man-made, and seeing how successful video games have been in preparing everyone from soldiers to fire fighters, the city of Chicago tapped the Center the Advancement of Distance Education at the University of Illinois at Chicago to create training video games for healthcare workers. Paid for with $500,000 from an initiative from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the games will include simulations of terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and major outbreaks like the dreaded potential avian flu pandemic. From the article:

    The game opens with a virtual newscaster warning that a terrorist group has unleashed a deadly agent on the city and that all residents must head to a clinic or polling station to be vaccinated.

    Players are inside a triage center facing a growing line of patients. Each patient has a different complaint; it is up to players to decide whether the patient is healthy and should go home or needs treatment. If the player takes too long to decide, the patients grow restless. If the player repeatedly makes the wrong choice, the mood in the center shifts from ''calm" to ''nervous" to ''riot" -- and security must be called.

    Staffers at the Center for the Advancement of Distance Education are developing games featuring other catastrophes, including an anthrax outbreak, radiological exposure, and the plague. ''We're concerned with training people to save lives," said Lars Ullberg, the project's executive producer. ''Playing is a natural learning experience. Besides, wouldn't you rather have fun with training?"

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