Webinar presenters Milt Nenneman and Bob Walker answered a number of your questions after their presentation, "Giving First Responders and Schools an EDGE on Active Shooter Training." Here are some of their responses.
Audience Question: From a technology perspective, whether you're an agency or a school district, what technology do they need to have in place to be able to use the tool?
Bob Walker: That information is on our website. Realistically, you need a slightly better computer for the school environment then the website currently states because it is developed in Unreal 4 and has some additional visual capabilities beyond the hotel. You need to have something that has at least a GTX 1060 video card in it. We are exploring ways to try and stream the training to people so that you can use a lower grade computer. But right now, that technology is further behind than the graphics technology. A current computer, around a thousand dollars or so should be fine. The $599 Office Depot specials won't cut it. It doesn't have to be a $2500 or $3000 gaming computer, just a nice lower end gaming computer can run the software quite well.
Audience Question: Regarding the different player roles that are available and whether or not you're going to make these roles available. They're wondering if you're looking at adding Emergency Management and Dispatchers as a role option within the application?
Bob Walker: In the Hotel version, all those roles already exist. We have fire, law, EMS, and then unified command, dispatch, bad guys, and civilians.
For the school, we're rolling out the game in two iterations. In the first iteration of the School environment that we're rolling out late this Summer, we will have the roles of school staff, teachers, law enforcement, school resource officer, students, bad guys, and dispatch. In the second iteration, we will also roll out fire, EMS, and unified command. We also have upgraded capabilities for those roles beyond what is in the hotel version.
Audience Question: When do you expect that the School environment will be released? If I heard you correctly, it's late summer. Is that right?
Bob Walker: Right, we're going to do a closed Beta towards the end of July, early August with some locations across the country. Once we get through the closed Beta, we'll collect data from that and use the results to make some final tweaks to the software. Then, probably within another month and a half or two, depending on the amount of feedback we receive, we could look at releasing it to a wider audience.
Audience Question: Do you anticipate a waitlist once you start accepting those applications or once you decide you're able to go live, is everyone going to be given a login at the same time? How do you anticipate that rollout process?
Milt Nenneman: The way you do that is you send an email request through the website. Then, what we do is because we want to control this and we don't want it to fall into the wrong hands. First thing Cole will do is take that information and make sure that it is a legitimate school or public safety organization. They will then send it to us, DHS and then, double check what they found. We will send it back to Cole and say yes, these people are good to go. Then, Cole Engineering will send an email to them saying, "Go to this link, put in a password, and you now have access". That whole process takes about, Bob? Ten days?
Bob Walker: Depending on the backlog. But normally, takes about 2 weeks, yeah.
Milt Nenneman: When we first rolled out the hotel, we had more people applying that we thought so we got a bit of a backlog. We assumed the same thing will happen when we first do the school. Because we have to do that to every single request. Generally, it takes about 10 days, if you're not at the front end of the initial release.
Audience Question: Are you looking at allowing universities access to the application or the program? Will people working with them like retired police officers be able to access the software?
Milt Nenneman: Yes. Universities, we're considering them to be schools so they'll have access to the tools. Retired police officers would be able as we'd give access to the school. The school could then allow or invite that retired police officer into their environment to conduct training.
We are also commercializing this tool as well. Right now, this tool is available free to public safety institutions and schools. We will also be releasing to the private sector to conduct commercial training opportunities. Even if we do that, it will still be available free of charge to public safety entities and schools.
Bob Walker: For the people that don't qualify to get it for free, there'll be licensing arrangements depending on if they're using it for internal training or if they're going to then be a commercial entity that takes the software to train other places. There are different licensing models for using the software that way.
Audience Question: If a person already has access to the Hotel scenario, what do they need to do be able to apply for the School scenario?
Bob Walker: Because they're two separate environments with two separate approval processes per se. We'll email the people that have access to the Hotel environment to let them know, but it will be a separate application. Whether or not it's a streamlined approval because they already have access to the Hotel, that would be up to DHS. I'm assuming that it will probably be a yes, but that's a DHS call.
Milt Nenneman: That would be a yes, if you already have access, you still have to go through the process like Bob said, but it would be a pre-approved process, but you still have to go through it. Because that's how we control access.
Audience Question: In terms of training for administrators of the program, do you provide that training? How do the people that will coordinate everything and host the training and act as the proctor — what kind of training do you have for them?
Bob Walker: We're developing documentation to go along with that. We have an effective use/instructor guide. We also have technical instructor guide. So, there's basically the instructional component of being the instructor and then there's the how do you use the software technical components of being an instructor. We have documentation for that. If that's enough for everybody to go forth and do the training then that's great – if not, they can also contact Cole Engineering and we provide training services, train the trainer, things like that, in conjunction with the Educator's School Safety Network. We have training classes that we can do if they don't think the documentation is adequate.
Milt Nenneman: One of the documents that we have developed is the school use guide that is written by educators for educators. It's directed at school staff on how to use the training tool. We're also developing YouTube-style videos on the mechanics of using the model and simulation. How do we register students? How do we get people in there? What are the mechanics? The other documentation is how do I conduct training once I have a class ongoing — how do I incorporate modeling and simulation into my training.
Audience Question: Do you need a real-life person for each role in the scenario or can the computer play that role and function in the scenario as an actor?
Milt Nenneman: You need a human for each role that is not AI. There's artificial intelligence — like in the school there's like 300 students running around there, they will respond to different stimulus but they don't have intelligent design, like they can't think. You would have to have a person logged in for each role. You can have as an administrator, some of the developers from Cole, that's playing the bad guy or what we call the exercise cell. They're confident enough, they can do up to 6 different roles simultaneously while they're shooting us. On the students' side, it is one avatar, one student.
Bob Walker: That's training students as opposed to students in the school. So, the students in the school, as Milt said, there's about 200-300 of those that are AI-driven, they can be augmented by people from the training cell as additional students who can then provide additional feedback. But as far as the other roles, they are human. But you don't have to have every role filled in order to conduct a training. It depends on what type of training you want to do. If you're not doing a training that requires fire and EMS, or even external law enforcement, you just want to do it for your school personnel and include your SROs, you can do that.
Audience Question: About the configurability of the application, as an example, if you don't introduce Fire into the scenario, can the instructor take that out of the scenario? Or is it not that granular in terms of configurability?
Bob Walker: If you don't want a fire, you don't have to start one.
Milt Nenneman: Yeah, don't start it.
Milt Nenneman: You also have the capability, if you have somebody that's behaving inappropriately. As an instructor, you can terminate them or completely disconnect them from the game. If you don't want fires, and someone started fires — you can just turn them off.
Bob Walker: You can actually take them and disable them even being able to log back into the session. You can boot them out, disable, basically unassign them from that session and they can't get back in.
Audience Question: Can you talk a little bit about the controls of playing the game? If participants are not familiar with the controls of playing video games, is there a steep learning curve to operate the controllers before they can use the scenarios? Can you talk about the management of controls?
Milt Nenneman: I'm 63 years old, and the last video game I played was Pac Man and Asteroids. I was kind of the bar for entry. So, they had to be able to develop so that I could do it, and I can. As a student, if you've got an index finger and you can run a mouse, you can run the tool. You can run it on a keyboard, with a mouse, you can also connect it to a joystick like you would have on an Xbox or one of the Nintendos. The way that we have it right now is primarily, it's a keyboard and a mouse. There are very few commands and there's a function key. So, if you notice on there, as you go through doors, intercom systems, if you get close to it, you can have an orange highlight. When you do that you just push that F key and that will activate whatever it is that you've come in contact with.
The interface is actually very simple to use.
Bob Walker: Yeah, compared to a lot of commercial video games. I play video games and the number of key binding in commercial games is far and beyond what we have in this game.
Audience Question: Whether or not this program is set up to be similar to the Shoot-Don't Shoot simulator when an action decision may result in being shot by the shooter or multiple additional victims in the scenario? How interactive is it in terms of responding to the decisions?
Bob Walker: It is real-time interactive because it is all human-driven. If you are law enforcement and you come upon the suspect in the classroom, it's player versus player at that point. If you hesitate and they don't, you could be shot.
Milt Nenneman: And you have real-time audio interactions where you can tell the person, "Drop the gun," whatever it is, you can have real-time verbal communication, and based on the actions, depending on what action you take. The other thing in the School version that's not in the Hotel version, and this wouldn't be appropriate in an active shooter, but as said, this isn't just active shooters is that law enforcement has the capability for non-lethal intervention. We have a Taser capability and an OC capability. You can tase someone, OC them, or you can shoot them, or you can get verbal compliance. You have options besides just a lethal response.
Audience Question: Are you looking at additional scenarios for court, other government building, maybe other employment locations? How flexible is that floorplan?
Milt Nenneman: You can use that… the school to simulate, we were talking with other people from the UK, about their governmental offices and infrastructure protection. They want to use it to do control room training. We can actually modify that, there will be costs associated with it but you can conduct training in a school or office areas. You can conduct training and pretend it's not a school and say it's just a regular office. Or there are different parts of the hotel, you can be in the kitchen area, subterranean, there's a cafeteria there, there's a bar. You can conduct in any one of these locations and make it just specific to that small area. That entire 26 story-hotel and subterranean levels are all completely accessible. You can go into every single room in that hotel.
Audience Question: On accessing the application, an audience member provides IT support to a campus security — can they request access to the EDGE of should the chief of security request it?
Milt Nenneman: Get your law enforcement folks or school administrator in there. That will make it a lot smoother.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of "Giving First Responders and Schools an EDGE on Active Shooter Training."