Books on Games, Virtual Worlds, Simulations, Cognitive Studies, and Performance Improvement

In the cue-

Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal


Neuromancer by William Gibson; an old science fiction/cyberpunk book, but where much of the thinking on VR/VWs got started. I guess Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson would come next.


The Gamification of Learning and Instruction: Game-based Methods and Strategies for Training and Education by Karl Kapp

Fun Inc.: Why Gaming Will Dominate the Twenty-First Century by Tom Chatfield

Infinite Reality by Jim Blascovich and Jeremy Bailenson
Note: great book. Well worth the read. Will post a blog once I digest my thoughts on this.

Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School by John Medina

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right by Atul Gawande

Learning in 3D: Adding a New Dimension to Enterprise Learning and Collaboration (Essential Knowledge Resource (Pfeiffer)) by Karl Kapp and Tony O’Driscoll

Learning Online with Games, Simulations, and Virtual Worlds: Strategies for Online Instruction (Jossey-Bass Guides to Online Teaching and Learning) by Clark Aldrich

Previous Posts

The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves and then we will save our country.
—Abraham Lincoln

My blogpost begins with this quote which hangs on the wall of the National Defense University in Washington, DC, where I attended the Federal Consortium on Virtual Worlds conference held a few weeks ago. And while this quote from Lincoln addressed the tumult of the US Civil War, it does apply to our current situation and the area that I work in which is civil defense, what we now call emergency response.


Over the past couple of months we have witnessed horrible tornados (on the F5 level- even some hitting Massatchusetts!?) and record level floods. Local, regional and Federal responders are valiantly responding to the devastation, struggling to keep up with the demands of disaster mitigation, evacuation, sheltering, and recovery.

Two conferences I attended (the one mentioned above) and the other LogCon 2011- a Universal Approach to Disaster Logistics held by the Regional Catastrophic Planning Team of NY-NJ-CT-PA (see, hammered home some major efforts (systems and such) some in place, others in the works or on the horizon, to enable us (here and abroad) to respond to disasters that warrant a major emergency response and highlighted some new technologies that might be used for learning, exercise and training. So here are some of my (at time rambling) notes from these two great conferences.

LogCon 2011

I had the great opportunity to hear and take part in a number of presentations by emergency response professionals from FEMA, NYC, NJ State OEM and Police, NJ County OEM, and NJ/Florida National Guard, and US Military. This included a keynote by Craig Fugate, FEMA Adminstrator, who gave a great talk.

Some high level questions this conference brought up for me as a training professional and planner are:

  • What are the major choke points in the planning and in the specific logistics process?
  • What are the major constraints to coordination?

Many folks have a misconception about FEMA. The common image of them is coming in like the cavalry of old (perhaps in SUVs, not on horseback) to swoop in and save the day by providing  food/water/ice etc. just post disaster (what we might call mass care) and then write a check for everyone to cover the repairs (perhaps not all, but at least the major ones insurance does not cover). Well, let me tell you that it does not work that way.

FEMA does work with State, local, tribal and other regional/local emergency response managers to support and strengthen their own emergency preparedness responses and, when a disaster does strike steps in, when requested from State Governors to the President (yes, there is that Federal/State legal control demarcation). So when you hear of a disaster declaration this has legal ramifications and triggers access to specific resources (material and financial) to support the emergency response. That being stated, local responders (think municipal/City etc.) must respond first and when they get overwhelmed or the situation is deemed larger than their ability to manage, then kicking it up the next level, that may be county or state, and then the Federal level if need be). You can think of this as a ripple effects, where if the ripple in the water (extent of the disaster) exceeds the management scope of a level of government response it gets escalated to the next level and so forth.

So what is catastrophic disaster? Catastrophic disasters are those that rise to the level that overwhelm the local government ability to respond and that crosses jurisdictional boundaries, requiring greater levels of coordination and unity of response among governments that do normally work together. This what this conference was focused on: Unity of Response (including coordination) and developing the methods and tools for a Common Operating Picture (needed for the Unity of Response).

Now back to FEMA… Administrator Fugate spoke about a couple of things, one of which was the MOMs planning principle. This is not your Mom’s apple pie or “make sure to bring your sweater” Mom principle. MOMs stands for Maximum of Maximums which for FEMA roughly translates into: what is the worst case that can possibly happen (some of this looks like it may already be unfolding), e.g. massive floods, tornados, wild fires, and a hurricane all at once that might strain FEMA abilities. It then looks at how can we bolster regional/local responses so they don’t have to kick things up to the next level or have a smaller level of need for response, and where those gaps might be that FEMA needs to step in and what resources are needed to bring things back to a stabilized level to protect human life so that recovery can begin. see

The other related major point he made, which is one I learned myself having managed several overseas large scale disaster response programs, is that we need to focus our efforts on whole community and client based approaches to disaster response. This means that we need to plan with not only government in mind (all levels) but also include all commercial, non-profit, and other organizations that are part of the response. If people in one community have the means and an open supermarket, then emergency response probably does not need to provide for basic needs, e.g. water or food in that community.

However, if communities have their food supply chain knocked out and do not have access to basic needs, then a response is needed. Individuals and businesses need to plan and respond to emergencies to get back on line and to support the community as they do on a regular basis or even to augment that in extreme ways. Consider a large big box store like Home Depot or Lowes, when a hurricane approaches they need to provide extra supplies needed for folks to board up windows and secure any other objects outside their home as well as preposition supplies as close they can to the area that will be impacted to facilitate repairs and rebuilding. This is something government cannot do.

In emergency response when resources are strained, in particular specialized staff and equipment, emergency managers look to force multipliers that can help increase their coverage. For example, when setting up levees along a river about to flood, rather than seeking out individual volunteers, enlisting private voluntary organizations and tasking them with bringing in a set number of volunteers can be a force multiplier in recruitment.

So what exactly is logistics and why is that so important for emergency response? Well, quite simply it is getting things to the right people at the right time to ensure that people are kept safe and that damage is mitigated or repaired and systems are restored. Sounds easy, but in a disaster nothing is normal and never easy. This is what sets apart disaster logistics from regular logistics.

My colleagues at the Regional Catastrophic Planning Team, led by leaders throughout this region, are working on creating a standard for disaster logistics and are putting together cutting edge plans and tools to coordinate and manage the flow of equipment, material, supplies, staff and services that are vital in a response. This is a massive and complex effort.

Just to mention a few things that are particularly interesting:

  • They are developing a system called ALERT=Area Logistics Emergency Response Team that identifies, trains, and readies staff who can step in as supplementary human resource to fill roles in gaps at various levels for managing requests, procuring those prioritized items, and getting them where they are needed.
  • RDC= Receiving and Distribution Center= Staging Area or warehouse for all non-staff resources such as equipment, supplies, etc. Unlike a standard warehouse where something might sit there for a while most items are going to come and go out fairly rapidly. Receiving, recording and tracking those items is a key function.
  • Private sector integration plan: this is a great step forward in analyzing the impacts on the whole to the private sector and what they need to respond, e.g. credentialling to get through roadblocks when a disaster happens.

My favorite session was Planning with the Military which was presented by COL Robert Freehill, Defense Coordinating Officer US Army, North- Region 2, LTC Paul Chauncey, Commander, 927th CSSB,  Florida National Guard,LTC Daniel T. Mahon,  Surface Maintenance Manager,  New Jersey Army National Guard. The LTCs from the national guard gave great talks about the different laws and command control (C2) in emergencies some of these highlights:

  • Title 32 national guard under control of Governor.
  • Title 10 are active duty soldiers under control of President. (Posse Comitatus- remember post Civil War reconstruction)
  • ICS does not command soldiers; military COM (chain of command).
  • Civil resources are used first and fully.
  • Response, depending on how far away they are 2-6 hours (200 bodies) response 12-24 for most response (8,500 guardsmen). That is a lot of folks!.
  • All requests go through OEMs from County/City to State. Exception: life or limb, prevent suffering, lessen damage.
  • C2=command control, never to civilians.

LTC Mahan’s statement is dear to my heart: forward thinking and backward planning. Attitude is to adapt, overcome and succeed.

1 Response to “Logistics and Virtual Worlds”

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