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New project to enhance response to airport disasters

A major EU-funded project designed to improve security and crisis management at airports has been launched at Middlesex University.

Middlesex University is lead partner in CRISIS, a €3.5million EU-funded project which aims to improve skills in security and crisis management using new computer simulator training programmes.

The team of 12 European partner organisations will develop IT-based systems for training people dealing with major incidents such as air crashes, airport security and war zone activity. All of these situations involve large groups of people reacting to a series of random activities or events.

The project will run for three years and in that time the team aims to develop a full range of systems to enable key emergency and security services personnel to train in dealing with realistic crisis scenarios. They can train as an individual – for example going online to ‘play ‘ against the computer - or against members of other teams who are online at other locations.

Professor William Wong, who leads Human-Computer Interaction at Middlesex’s School of Engineering and Information Sciences, is coordinating the work of the partner organisations.

He said:  “The systems we’re testing involve very sophisticated technology, similar to that of some video and games programming packages. The systems could be programmed with different scenarios in order to create a realistic training environment - basic drills, more random programmes and also advanced programmes where the trainee may be dealing with many different events in quick succession.
“The systems will give a real taste of the crisis environment, where there is no sequence to incidents - they happen at random.”

Experts in user modelling, technology, engineering and software will work together to evaluate the software, testing it with members of the security and emergency services.

The Middlesex team will also manage an important research thread, focusing on team decision making, and how different teams’ interactions change as a result of a crisis, especially when there are unexpected events.

Other research strands will include work by Swedish partner VSL Sweden – which will analyse video, text and voice communications from real situations and integrate these findings into new systems. They will develop existing equipment such as head displays with goggles, adapting designs to make them more intuitive for operators in the field where something sophisticated but hardwearing and easily accessible is needed.

The 12 partners are drawn from organisations across Europe including Linköping University in Sweden, the University of Iceland, security firms, systems developers, the West Midlands Police and British Transport Police.

CRISIS stands for CRitical Incident management training System using an Interactive Simulation environment.

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