The video game developed by a team from the University of Illinois at Chicago is the first in a series of simulations to address bioterrorism, pandemic flu, smallpox and other disasters that emergency personnel must prepare for. Until recently, public health workers and emergency responders have been trained using role-playing exercises and actual disaster drills, which are costly and time-intensive.

"In light of the disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina, it is clear that preparedness training needs to go a lot further," said Lars Ullberg, executive producer of the project at UIC's Center for the Advancement of Distance Education. "Simulations are the only efficient and cost-effective way to bridge the gap between theory and practice and prepare our emergency workers for both the expected and unexpected."

The first scenario in the project simulates a bioterrorism response focused on training thousands of people to dispense mass amounts of drugs and vaccines in the wake of an anthrax attack. The simulation begins with a television news report warning the public about the disaster. As the public begins to flock to emergency dispensing and vaccination centres, public health workers and emergency responders are faced with real-life situations, including a person who may have been exposed to anthrax and a hysterical woman who believes the world is going to end.

Throughout the simulation, the game tracks how the public health workers respond to various situations and how quickly patients are being evaluated and treated.

MEDICA.de; Source: University of Illinois at Chicago