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.