DHS, Army Introduce Virtual Training Platform for First Responders

Preparing for a real-life terrorist attack has become much easier, thanks to a joint effort between the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate and the U.S. Army’s Training and Doctrine Command and Research Laboratory.

EDGE (Enhanced Dynamic Geo-Social Environment) is a virtual training platform that allows first responders to train in a virtual environment. Built by the DHS and the Army, EDGE essentially allows first responders to engage in a multiplayer, online game. And instead of being exposed to risks that real-life training exercises would entail, these individuals are able to practice the much-needed skills for training for terrorist events in a safe, virtual environment.

Sacramento First Responders Test EDGE

The Sacramento Police and Fire Department recently gave EDGE a try, thanks to a DHS pilot program. The Sacramento team was able to try their skills in an active shooter scenario. Upon completing the virtual drill, the team members provided DHS with their feedback on EDGE, thereby allowing the DHS to further refine the tool.

EDGE serves as an innovative training tool that will bring public safety agencies together and allow first responders to collaborate and train in active shooter incidents, said Sacramento Police Department Deputy Chief Dana Matthes.

EDGE provides a unified training program that is ideal for all first responders, including EMS, fire, dispatch, and police.

The EDGE scenario for the Sacramento first responders was a near-replication of a popular downtown Sacramento hotel. The infrastructure of the virtual hotel reflected a real hotel, which included 27 guest floors, two, main entrances, and a guest check-in area.  This virtual environment allowed Sacramento first responders to engage in a full-response program that dealt with a complex, organized attack. Within the program, first responders engaged in free-form, role-playing scenarios, where they had to demonstrate their ability to work together and to communicate effectively in a coordinated response.

What makes EDGE so unique, said DHS Science and Technology Directorate Program Manager Christine Lee, is that it showcases a multi-disciplinary scenario, thereby allowing all members of a fist responder team to work together.