Quick reactions and smart decision making are just a few of the skills that players often need to succeed in computer and video games. These same skills are breaking new ground in games that teach children how to react well in the face of natural disasters.
The Illinois Emergency Management Agency (IEMA) recently launched a new online game to help teach schoolchildren about emergency preparedness and earthquake safety. In The Day The Earth Shook, players must help a brother and sister put together a disaster preparedness kit, and identify areas of their house that would be safe or unsafe in the event of an earthquake. IEMA officials note that while the game focuses on earthquake safety, they believe it will also help students understand the importance of having emergency supplies at home and being prepared for all types of disasters.
The Day The Earth Shook was commissioned by IEMA and the Illinois Terrorism Task Force, and developed through a collaborative effort by the Electronic Visualization Lab at the University of Illinois at Chicago, National Center for Supercomputing Applications, and the Center for Public Safety and Justice at the University of Illinois. The project was funded by a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), located within U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and is part of a broader, yearlong IEMA initiative.
Another FEMA-supported game, Disaster Hero, is currently in development. The American College of Emergency Physicians and Legacy Interactive are collaborating to create the online game, scheduled for release in 2011. Players will learn about the kinds of disasters that might occur in their geographic region or state by becoming a “Disaster Hero” and helping families prepare for various emergencies.
FEMA has also developed a number of its own interactive online games for children as part of its national “Ready” campaign. In addition to informational materials and checklists, FEMA’s “Ready Kids” website includes games such as Pack It Up and Hidden Treasures, which teach children about what supplies should be included in a preparedness kit and what household items may be useful in an emergency. The “FEMA For Kids” website also features a series of interactive games and puzzles to help kids learn about weather events.
Computer and video games offer a way for children and their families to learn about an important, and sometimes frightening, topic in a way that is fun and engaging.