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School-based Environment Added To Preparedness Virtual Training Platform

EDGE - Image credit: Homeland Security

A new school-based environment has been made available for the EDGE platform, allowing multiplayer training in any type of critical incident on campus.

The Enhanced Dynamic Geo-Social Environment (EDGE) is a free, professional virtual training platform that first responders, and now education institutions, can use to plan for a coordinated response to critical incidents.

Developed with the U.S. Army Simulation and Training Technology Center, EDGE is one tool in a comprehensive preparedness toolbox, complementing and honing training protocols already in place in communities nationwide.

In June 2017, the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory released the first EDGE virtual training environment for first responders. Using a high-rise hotel as the backdrop, first responders of all disciplines can navigate through a number of complex incidents, including active shooters, arson, hostage negotiation, bomb threats and more. This training environment is available for free to response agencies across the country.

EDGE (Hotel Scenario) - Image credit: Homeland Security

Developing a second training environment featuring a school was a natural progression. The team worked with several first responder and education stakeholders, including the Educator’s School Safety Network, to gather feedback and requirements. 

EDGE provides a format to train school personnel or law enforcement agencies separately or collaboratively so all are prepared in the event of a school incident. The goal is to improve communication, coordination and response skills prior to an incident. They can practice various strategies together, and the technology analyzes how different security measures might change the outcome and response. This EDGE environment is also free to all U.S. public safety and education institutions.

EDGE (School Scenario) - Image credit: Homeland Security
The EDGE virtual training environment can be accessed via laptop or desktop computer. No extensive hardware is required, making it easy for school systems and law enforcement agencies to use.

Though EDGE is built on the Unreal gaming engine, it is not a single-player video game with programmed scenarios. In fact, there is little artificial intelligence; the platform is tactic-agnostic, allowing school staff to create training plans and responses based on their own operating procedures.

Players control avatars representing their real-life role— teachers, school administrators and school resource officers. Additional avatars include students and suspects, as well as law enforcement, for a coordinated response. More avatars will be added in the future to build in unified command, firefighters and emergency medical services.

Communications functions allow role-players to actively converse or exchange commands while running live EDGE training exercises. There is also an after-action capability, so trainers can replay the exercises for further discussion and instruction.

How To Obtain Edge Access And Training Resources
S&T partnered with game developer Cole Engineering Services, Inc. to provide a point of distribution for EDGE. All EDGE account requests are fully vetted and, once approved, Cole Engineering provides online access. They also provide a help desk function for schools or first responder agencies just getting started with EDGE.
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