When you think of our nation’s critical infrastructure, what comes to mind? Is it the structures that protect our physical borders? The wheels of industry that keep our economy in motion? The networks that keep our lines of communication open and energy flowing? Or maybe the roads and highways that take us to and from our jobs, our homes and other daily destinations?
The answer, of course, is all of the above—and then some. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has identified 16 critical infrastructure sectors that are vital to our nation’s well-being. The DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) takes securing our nation’s critical infrastructure quite seriously, working across these sectors to arm those who protect and serve with tools and research to keep our structures, systems and citizens safe.
As Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Month kicks off, I want to talk about one component of infrastructure in particular—our schools—and a new technology S&T just released that will help protect not only the physical buildings, but also the individuals within them. The Enhanced Dynamic Geo-Social Environment, or EDGE, is a virtual training platform that allows educators and first responders to collaboratively plan responses for a number of threat scenarios, anything from classroom disturbances to bomb threats or an active shooter on campus.
S&T worked with the U.S. Army Simulation and Training Technology Center and Cole Engineering Services, Inc. to create an environment where users can improve and reinforce coordination, communication and critical decision-making skills in a safe space, so if the unthinkable does happen, everyone will know where to go and what to do.
To accomplish this, EDGE leverages the latest video gaming technology (think: Fortnite) with avatars representing, and controlled by, a number of real-life players: teachers, administrators, school resource officers, local law enforcement and more. But EDGE isn’t a game. There are no winners, losers or high scores, and there is no competition, just learning. EDGE is only available to verified education and first response agencies as part of a comprehensive training curriculum—the better prepared they are, the safer our schools will be.
Education institutions are vital to our nation’s critical infrastructure. They are where we feed the minds of the future leaders of industry, medicine, sports, science, education, homeland security and much, much more. As I mentioned in our recent announcement about EDGE’s availability , S&T does not pull any punches when it comes to the security of our students. Anytime we can make a tool available that can help to keep them safe—and offer it for free—well, that is winning.