'Zero Hour': A Serious Game for Emergency Responders

The Washington, D.C.-based George Washington University has announced plans to convene two EMS (emergency medical services) “policy summits” geared to meet the needs of the EMS “operational chiefs, directors, and administrators” of the nation’s largest cities. The principal focus of the summits will be to develop recommendations for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on how best to cope with large-scale incidents and events, both natural and manmade.  

As a prelude to the summit meetings, the university also has developed an imaginative and versatile video game – Zero Hour: America’s Medic – which, although not yet available for purchase, is already being integrated into an e-commerce and learning-management system also developed by the university.  

Zero Hour – which has received favorable pre-release publicity from numerous EMTs, paramedics, and emergency-management officials who have seen an early “demonstration copy” of the game – provides a realistic view of the chaos, confusion, and literally bloody turmoil resulting from an earthquake, terrorist bombing, or other mass-casualty incident in several “downtown areas” (the financial district, the train station, or the local stadium) of a major U.S. city. The vivid and most important result, in each scenario, is a large number of victims – dead, dying, or in immediate need of medical care.  

The purpose of the game is to help emergency responders “turn victims into patients” – but they will not be able to unless they are wearing the PPE (personal protective equipment) they need, and: (a) know how to diagnose victims quickly and accurately; (b) are able, emotionally as well as physically, to triage the victims – and to provide immediate medical care, as and when needed, at the scene of the incident; and (c) also know how to provide transportation to the nearest healthcare facility capable of providing the specific care needed by each victim.  

Zero Hour uses pop-up screens to cover each of these step-by-step phases of the incident, listing the numerous questions (the victim’s pulse rate, respiration difficulties, medical history, allergies, etc.) that should be asked relevant to the specific diagnosis, and including suggestions on “what to do next.” The end result of this well-crafted and important “game” might not be entertainment, therefore, but in many situations might well be the saving of lives that otherwise would be lost.

For additional information about the GWU preparedness summits, click on http://www.nemspi.org/  – then, to see the “Demo” copy of the video game, click on the “Zero Hour” box on the lower left-hand side of the page.

James D. Hessman

James D. Hessman is former editor in chief of both the Navy League’s Sea Power Magazine and the League’s annual Almanac of Seapower. Prior to that dual assignment he was senior editor of Armed Forces Journal International.



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