Virtual SOMC In Fire Training GamePosted on January 3, 2007

Game designer Rick Eid works with Telecommunications Supervisor Elsie Wolfe.

Employees at Southern Ohio Medical Center will train for fire safety with state-of-the-art approaches this year, including an innovative three-dimensional game that replicates a nursing unit of the hospital in which a fire is spreading and patients must be rescued.

“Video game training allows us to do the impossible,” game designer Rick Eid says. “We could never go to the nursing unit and set a fire and go through these steps, but in the virtual video game world we can do everything.”

Eid and more than a dozen staffers with his Huntington/Ironton-based company, TickStorm, worked for more than 10 months on the project, gathering and duplicating the characteristics of nursing unit Three North, the hospital’s cafeteria and a neighboring physician’s office. Once the data was gathered, the game had to be tested repeatedly to catch glitches and assure a realistic experience.

The game has a tutorial with no time limits that helps the user become familiar with controls and what must be done. When the training game is actually played on one of SOMC’s computers, the user has certain tasks that must be accomplished within a certain time frame. The user must locate a fire that has broken out, sound the alarm, rescue patients and extinguish the fire using a fire extinguisher. Users earn points as they complete each task and answer questions correctly about the SOMC policies on fire safety.

TickStorm’s team worked closely with SOMC personnel to assure as much realism in the environment as possible. The user sees the SOMC environment in first-person, moving through the hallways past replicas of doors, signs, staff members and patients. In the game, screenshots of SOMC’s computer network appear on monitors at nurse stations and television programs are visible on the sets in patients’ rooms. Even the emergency pages overhead are voiced by SOMC Telecommunications Supervisor Elsie Wolfe, who provides emergency pages in the real world as well.

“I’m a hands-on learner and will understand and remember things better if I can get in there and do them,” Eid says. “Video game training can be used in conjunction with conventional training and provide a great new way to remember what you have to do.”

“Once complete, this game will be available in January as part of required fire training for all employees,” Roxane Robinson of SOMC Safety Services explains.

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