Video game teaches emergency workers to become leaders

Incident Commander is available for free to city and local governments.

BreakAway Games is giving away the final version of its Incident Commander game to municipal emergency departments, The Washington Post reports. The game, which shows players how to manage crisis situations, received $350,000 in Dept. of Justice finding.

Maybe it won't ever compete with Holo, but Incident Commander is already coming in useful.

Just over a year ago, Joe Barlow, a paramedic in Illinois, spent a week testing Incident Commander. Days later, he used his virtual experience in a real-life situation: the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. He was put in charge of an 800-bed hospital in Baton Rouge, La., and found that many of the decisions he made there stemmed from what he learned by playing the game.

As a paramedic, Barlow's first instinct in the game's scenario was to jump into action - but the game teachers players to think differently about their roles.

"It gave me an understanding of the broader picture, how to manage resources to get the job done," he said in an interview yesterday. For example, Barlow said that at the Baton Rouge site, he might not have realized he needed to get triage tags for classifying patients had he not played the game.

Cities interested in obtaining the game, which is not available to the public, can get more info at the Incident Commander website.

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