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Army Develops VR Game to Prep Teachers for School Shootings

edge

By Debbie Gregory.

With mass shootings sadly becoming a regular occurrence, the U.S. Army and Homeland Security are working to create a virtual reality experience they hope will help train teachers  how to react in the event of a school shooting.

It’s a grim project, but one that the creators hope will help teachers stay calm in a real emergency.

The VR experience allows role-playing, and multiple players take the role of a teacher trying to keep students safe during a shooting; a law enforcement officer trying to apprehend the shooter; and the shooter.

The project is based on a multipurpose Homeland Security simulator called the Enhanced Dynamic Geo-Social Environment (EDGE.) In 2016, the Army and Homeland Security released a similar virtual reality experience aimed to train both fire and police departments how to handle school shooting response.

“The more experience you have, the better your chances of survival are,” said Tamara Griffith, a chief engineer for EDGE. “So this allows you to practice and have multiple experiences (and) know what works and what doesn’t work.”

Teachers in the school-specific version get prompts to do things like lock the doors and windows, and they can give students instructions like “follow me” or “find a place to hide.” To create the most realistic scenario possible, EDGE engineers listened to dispatch audio from both the Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook shootings.

No one can say for sure if this technology would have saved some of the victims in Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Valentine’s Day, among them teachers protecting their students.

Geography teacher Scott Beigel was killed after he unlocked his door so that he could let students inside his classroom and shelter. Assistant football coach and security guard, Aaron Feis, used his own body to shield students as gunfire rang out in the school. Athletic director Chris Hixon, a former Navy Reservist, also lost his life.

The updated virtual reality simulation aimed at teachers will be released in the spring. And unfortunately, it can’t come soon enough.

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Military Connection: NORAD Strengthens Homeland Defense

norad

By Debbie Gregory.

For 58 years, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) partners Canada and the United States have worked together to defend North America from threats, whether by aircraft, missiles, or space vehicles. Recently, Navy Adm. William E. Gortney, commander of U.S. Northern Command and North American Aerospace Defense Command, outlined the added security measures that the U.S. Northern Command provides to NORAD.

Gortney described homeland partnerships as a “center of gravity,” a  dual resource and law enforcement presence. Working with governors, the Army and Air National Guards, and the functional and geographic combatant commands, Gortney said that these departments work together to close any seams that an enemy could try to permeate to threaten our security.

NORAD and U.S. Northcom operate within a common security environment and share common values, understanding the urgency and importance of duties in light of very real and present dangers. The commands’ responsibilities also include homeland ballistic missile defense and countering transnational criminal networks.

In his recent brief at the Pentagon, Gortney acknowledged that the unified command plan emphasizes  partnerships with Canada, the Bahamas and Mexico. The countries will work together to assess and solve shared problems. The overlap of commands heighten homeland security, and best informs the DoD to proceed specific to that region or instance.

In the 2015 NORAD and U.S. Northcom’s Posture Statement, Gorney said, “U.S. Northcom was born out of the tragic events of September 11th, 2001 and each day when we arrive for duty at our headquarters in Colorado Springs, we walk past a girder salvaged from the site of the World Trade Center. The events of that fateful day are never far from our thoughts. In the twelve years since U.S. Northcom was established, we understand now more than ever that we are entrusted with the supreme responsibility of protecting our homeland. This is a deeply personal commitment for us; it is our families, our friends, our shared values, and our way of life we protect.

Gorney said that the two commands complement each other, as evidenced by the integration across nearly all of the headquarter functions.

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Military Connection: NORAD Strengthens Homeland Defense: By Debbie Gregory