KNDU/KNDO helps train first responders - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

KNDU/KNDO helps train first responders

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KENNEWICK, Wash.--  Over the past few weeks, KNDU and KNDO have been putting together a project that will help train first responders all over the country.  We made a series of fake breaking news cut-ins that will go into the "Emergency Management Staff Trainer."  (EMST) Thousands of National Guard members, FEMA workers, and other first responders will use the trainer to be more prepared in the event of an emergency, natural disaster, or terrorist attack.

Jeff Sestokas, a Cognitive Research Scientist in Washington DC who works with these first responders, explains, "A lot of times, they're not given this type of experience on the day-to- day job because these don't happen every day.  So this project is about being able to simulate that kind of experience in a virtual learning environment."

All of the training is done online.  You log onto the EMST website & go through all of the motions of being in a crisis.  There are news reports to watch (like the ones we put together) telephone calls to take, and web chats to have.  Lt. Col. Greg Pickell, with the US Army National Guard, says it's a low cost way to get people trained.  He also explains, "You can have 10 people in 10 different states and they could all participate in the same staff training event without ever leaving their desks."

Sestokas says this training comes is valuable when there's a real emergency.  He says, "Oftentimes, such as 9-11, these types of news stories would help inform and provide intelligence to military officials to be able to make better informed decisions."

"You simply can't get the kind of interaction and stimuli you need out of a book," explains Lt. Col. Pickell.