RimSim Response Hospital Evacuation: Improving Situation Awareness and Insight through Serious Games Play and Analysis

RimSim Response Hospital Evacuation: Improving Situation Awareness and Insight through Serious Games Play and Analysis

Bruce Campbell, Chris Weaver
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2788-8.ch009
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To aid emergency response teams in training and planning for potential community-wide emergency crises, two coordinated research teams centered in King County, Washington have developed software-based tools to provide cognitive aids for improved planning and training for emergency response scenarios. After reporting the results previously of using the tools in pilot studies of increasing complexity, the implementation teams have been searching out community-wide emergency response teams working on emergency response plans that might benefit from use of the tools. In this paper, the authors describe the tools, the application of them to a countywide hospital evacuation scenario, and the evaluation of their value to emergency responders for improving situation awareness and insight generation.
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Communities are preparing diligently for potential community-wide crises arising from natural and man-made causes. First responders are those people who train to fulfill emergency response roles on behalf of community residents, seeking to limit loss of life, protect property, and reduce the cost of long-term recovery periods associated with crisis scenarios. The cost of providing physical drills to train for participation in community-wide crises is exorbitant and the 24/7 demands for first responders can preclude participation in training even if a physical drill is made available. As a result, research teams are exploring the use of software-based simulation environments to help extend training and planning opportunities to synchronous and asynchronous activities using role-play interfaces to simulate the performance of activities independently as well as with other role-players. This paper reviews the activities and results of one research team attempting to evaluate the use of software-based simulation environments as serious games for first responder training and planning purposes.

As part of the research and development agenda for visual analytics (Thomas & Cook, 2005), researchers have been developing integrated tools for improving analytic capabilities that facilitate application of human judgment to evaluate complex data associated with emergency response efforts. As coordinating artifacts, geospatial visualization assists in knowledge construction and decision support (MacEachren & Gahegan, 2004). In 2006 the Pacific Area Regional Visual Analytics Center (PARVAC) team at the University of Washington began working with regional emergency operation centers to explore the use of geospatial visualizations as a key component in an emergency response crisis scenario simulator, being built to allow first responders to plan and train for community-wide potential emergency scenarios. The team built a series of software components to support a modular architecture they call RimSim, seen in Figure 1, which advises development of simulation environments for first responder planning and training using emergency response scenarios identified by interested partners in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States.

Figure 1.

RimSim modular architecture


The PARVAC team assesses shared use of geospatial visualization over time through iterations of scenario development tasks combined with simulated scenario game role-play (Campbell & Mete, 2008). The team builds supporting tools to help first response coordination teams explore four concepts in a community-wide emergency response effort: recognition-primed decision-making (Klein, 1998), situation awareness (Adams & Tenney, 1995), distributed cognition (Hutchins, 1996), and distributed intelligence (Pea, 1993). All four suggest models relevant to the use of interactive visual artifacts in the coordination of complex team activities under time-bounded conditions. By working closely with the emergency response community, the team has explored expedient methods for improving emergency response activities effectiveness, which can be attained by improving response behavior in association with any or all of the four models.

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