Law enforcement and military personnel have used training simulators for years, but now schools will begin using the same technology to prepare for mass shootings.
The US Army is working with the University of Central Florida to develop a computer-based simulator tailored for teachers and other educators, the Associated Press reported this week. Simulations will allow school administrators to test a variety of responses to determine the most effective survival strategies for their teachers in any given situation.
“They can do some analysis in the engine and say ‘what would happen if I did have externally locking doors? Or, automatically locking doors. Or what would happen if I add intercoms, how would that change the survivability of this situation?’ So, it allows you to do analysis also,” project manager Bob Walker told the AP.
“A lot of these features allow teachers to test out things that have been tried. For example, at Virginia Tech they found barricading the doors worked very well.
“So, this gives school districts the ability to try out different things, see what works for their given environment.”
3D sound enables the user to determine the direction that the shots are coming from, and users can also view several perspectives, including a teacher, a police officer, pupils, and the shooter. Based on this information, the trainee can choose a variety of commands to direct their students to safety.
The AP report does not indicate whether the simulator can be tailored for teachers with concealed weapons, but its ability to depict the perspective of a police officer, and its basis on law enforcement simulations, suggests that it could be modified for use by armed teachers.
Researchers studied actual school shootings in detail to make the simulations as accurate as possible. Everything from the screams of the victims to the weaponry of the shooter is based on the mass murders at places like Columbine and Sandy Hook.
“Suspects come with rifles. Suspects can be adults or children. Unfortunately, that’s the reality of today’s society. We have to worry about children and adults being suspects,” Walker said.
“The suspect is going to go in and start some chaos. The teacher will show you how the teacher can respond to that with the students by taking different actions, lining them up against the wall.”
The Army Research Lab plans to make the training available to schools free of charge.