US Army simulation will prep teachers for school shootings

Two government agencies have teamed up to provide teachers with a unique education in the wake of increased school shootings.

The United States Army and Homeland Security Department are in the midst of creating a virtual reality experience they hope will help train educators on how to react in the event of a school shooting, according to Gizmodo.

Users can take on three roles in the virtual reality experience: teacher, shooter, and officer.

Teachers in the simulation must gather nervous pupils and find shelter. Those playing as the shooter are able to navigate the virtual school and kill at random. Officers in the virtual reality simulation must aim to find and kill the shooter.

Someone dazzled by VR goggles. (Photo from Flickr user Maurizio Pesce)

Someone dazzled by VR goggles. (Photo from Flickr user Maurizio Pesce)

The simulation is being developed as part of the $5.6 million Enhanced Dynamic Geo-Social Environment (EDGE) initiative, which is an “online training environment for first responders.”

In 2016, the Army and HSD released a similar virtual reality experience aimed to train first responders to handle hostile situations.

They’ve created simulations for both fire and police departments regarding school shooting response.

Related: New virtual reality lets operators simulate jumps into combat

“The more experience you have, the better your chances of survival are,” Tamara Griffith, a chief engineer for EDGE, told Gizmodo.

“So, this allows you to practice and have multiple experiences (and) know what works and what doesn’t work.”

To create the most realistic scenario possible, EDGE engineers listened to dispatch audio from both the Virginia Tech and Sandy Hook shootings. This allowed them to incorporate the most gruesome realities into the simulation.

Students at Virginia Tech hold a candlelight vigil after the Virginia Tech massacre (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Students at Virginia Tech hold a candlelight vigil after the Virginia Tech massacre (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

It also helped them zero in on specific survival tactics and best practices for such scenarios, including locking doors, avoiding windows, ordering students to line up against walls, and finding items to use as barricades.

According to Gizmodo, administrators in the simulations can enable different tools, including an intercom system and automated locks.

Griffith told the publication she’s hopeful that using the simulation in varying roles within the school will allow educators to stay calm should such a real-life situation arise.

“With teachers, they did not self-select into a role where they expect to have bullets flying near them. Unfortunately, it’s becoming a reality,” she said.

“And so we want to give them the chance to understand what options are available to them and what might work well for them.”

The updated virtual reality simulation aimed at teachers will be released in the spring.