Virtual Reality Disaster Health Preparedness Training

The National Library of Medicine's (NLM) Virtual Reality Disaster Health Preparedness Training program leverages simulation, computer gaming and instructional design technologies to develop training tools to support disaster preparedness training needs of the health workforce. The NLM Disaster Information Management Research Center (DIMRC) investigates and develops applications that enable a variety of learning experiences on either mobile devices, personal computers or the latest immersive virtual reality platforms, for individual or collaborative (team or multi-player) learning. 

To obtain a copy of the Virtual HICS/ICS Training software, contact

Virtual HICS/ICS Training

We investigate computer gaming technologies as training platforms to implement collaborative Incident Command System (ICS) exercises. Our current work focuses on two areas: exercise simulators and exercise management tools. 

Virtual Incident Command System Exercise System (VIX-S)

We are developing a system that will enable ICS trainers to design, share and conduct virtual exercises using custom multiplayer video game applications.

Diagram of VIX architecture: Exercise designer app > Exercise design (script, configuration and inject materials) > Multiplayer exercise simulators 
NLM’s Virtual ICS Exercise System (VIX-S) components (click for larger image)

A first public version of these components is now available. 

Exercise Simulators 

We research technologies to implement single- and multi-player virtual exercise simulations. Since 2008, NLM has researched and conducted exercise simulations in the online virtual world of Second Life (SL). More recently, we are developing simulators using commercial game engines. 

SL, and several other online virtual worlds, can provide an inexpensive and effective platform for conducting collaborative ICS exercises. However, computer game development tools enable more capable and easier-to-use multiplayer simulators for professional training. As immersive Virtual Reality technology becomes more accessible to the health community, NLM is also building immersive, VR-enabled preparedness applications. 

NLM’s goal is to develop resources and guidelines for organizations who may wish to try or implement a virtual training capability. A game-engine-based simulator is available for beta-testing. Check this webpage for updates about this tool. 

virtual command center with characters on the ground and in the air, and signs for: Interactive GIS, Forms, Public Announcements, Live Press Box
Collaborative Virtual Incident Command System exercise in Second Life. February 2016.

virtual emergency operations center with multiple computer screens
Prototype virtual operations center in game engine-based application. November 2018.

See these related resources: 

NLM In Focus: Virtual Training for Real-World Disaster Management. 

NLM In Focus: Every Minute Counts 

Virtual Hospital Incident Command System Training (YouTube video) 

To obtain a copy of the Virtual HICS/ICS Training software, contact

Exercise Management Tools

We are developing online tools to help preparedness trainers design and manage ICS exercises. The tool, which is available for beta-testing, enables trainers to create Master Scenario Events Lists (MSELs), organize training exercise with their staff, and conduct virtual exercises using Simulators.

MSEL Designer dashboard displays list of MSELs like Pandemic Flu Scenario #1
MSEL Designer interface panel.

To obtain a copy of the MSEL Designer application, contact

Virtual Highly-Infectious Disease Emergency Management Training

We are developing training methods and tools to enhance the preparedness of hospital caregivers for disasters involving patients with highly-infectious diseases. The training tools will enable medical teams in hospital to practice patient management skills, such as:

  • Patient registration
  • Donning and doffing of Personal Protective Equipment
  • X-Ray procedures
  • Laboratory sample management
  • Waste management

Virtual HIDEM PPE Doffing Training Tool 

Our Virtual HIDEM PPE Doffing application is the first of the series. It enables hospital teams to practice PPE doffing skills. The program follows CDC guidelines for the management of Ebola patients (as of August 2015). The training application enables two healthcare professionals practicing doffing skills collaboratively. You can download the tool from the links below. To use this application, uncompress the ZIP file and run it—it does not need installation. The training requires two computers running the same application and connected to the same local area network (LAN). This application is currently on BETA, therefore we encourage users to let us know what we can improve. 

virtual room with character wearing personal protective equipment, and list of Observer Steps
HIDEM PPE Doffing application.

Related Resources

Dass S., Cid V., Barnieu J., Cummings P. A Cognitive Task Analysis for an Emergency Management Serious Game. I/ITSEC 2016. 

HIDEM PPE Doffing leaflet: 

Application Download (download the file for your operating system, un-zip and run – no installation required)

MS Windows version: (1.4 GB) 
OSX version: (1.4 GB)

Computer Games for Awareness

NLM has several information tools that can be useful to professionals responding to or preparing for a disaster event. One of such tools is WISER—Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders ( NLM is developing a computer game intended to introduce WISER and related NLM tools in an engaging way. The game, developed with help from NLM Summer Student Interns, is expected to be available for playing on Android platforms in early 2019. Check this page for updates.  

collage of images from WISER response game
Screenshots from WISER Response game. November 2018.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I obtain the Virtual Reality HICS training system in Second Life from NLM? 

A: NLM can provide copies of resources and information that will enable others to develop their own training exercise platform in Second Life. NLM’s own training platform in Second Life is available for demonstrations. To request a demonstration, contact us at 

Q: Are these tools free?

A: All NLM resources and tools are free to download and use.

Q. Who can I contact to obtain more information?

A. For more information, please contact