Value of a Ludic Simulation in Training First Responders to Manage Blast Incidents

Value of a Ludic Simulation in Training First Responders to Manage Blast Incidents

Robert M. Waddington (SimQuest Inc., Annapolis, MD, USA), Thomas C. Reeves (The University of Georgia, USA), Ellen J. Kalin (SimQuest Inc., Annapolis, MD, USA), William D. Aggen (Prison Fellowship, Lansdowne, VA, USA), Marjorie A. Moreau (SimQuest Inc., Annapolis, MD, USA), Harald Scheirich (SimQuest Inc., Annapolis, MD, USA), Jerry Heneghan (Virtual Heroes Division, Applied Research Associates, Inc., Raleigh, NC, USA) and Steven Cattrell (Virtual Heroes Division, Applied Research Associates, Inc., Raleigh, NC, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/jgcms.2013040104
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The ludic, or gamelike, potential of simulations used in training is explored in this project, in which a prototype game was developed that had the mandate to train first responders to manage explosive blast incidents using an entertaining and engaging learning experience. One hypothesis and one question were postulated. The hypothesis was that the ludic component would make the game engaging, and therefore enhance learning, and the question was, “how will this type of game work within a curriculum instead of as traditional standalone training?” To test the hypothesis, surrogate end-users (N=42) participated in a formative evaluation study of the prototype, in which their feedback was solicited about all aspects of the game, including ease of use, coverage of subject matter, perceived usefulness, accuracy, realism, and immersion (i.e., extent to which they were engaged). To answer the question, the study team observed the students and instructors during the formative evaluation and collected impressions and feedback about the learning dynamic during testing. Results of the study supported the hypothesis, and led to some important realizations about the educational contexts that may work best for this type of training, i.e., that this type of game works well as a lab component of a course. After the game was modified based on the evaluation results, the game was used in live training, and subsequently reported to meet the needs of end users while achieving an appropriate blend of instructional and game design.
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Common errors made by responders to explosive blast incidents include entering the scene too early or getting too close before the scene is cleared, gaining access without securing egress (blocked exits), failing to triage (treating/transporting in order of encounter), increasing risk to casualties by moving them to unsafe triage/treatment areas, and improperly assessing and/or treating casualties. Managing victims of an explosive blast event requires switching to a mode of operations that may differ substantially from standard management guidelines, and that switch must be automatic and smooth. Additional considerations specific to blast events include the possible risk of secondary attacks, different patterns of injury, and the fact that visual triage alone is insufficient.

Current training for blast response is primarily delivered via lecture and PowerPoint presentation, sometimes with practice sessions on human patient simulators (manikins). Although this is clearly insufficient to convey a sense of the reality of a mass-casualty incident, staging large-scale exercises is costly, time- and resource-intensive, and logistically challenging. Further, objective criteria of success and failure are rarely defined or imposed.

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