Objective: To create and evaluate a pilot bioterrorism defense training environment using virtual reality technology.
Methods: The present pilot project used Second Life, an internet-based virtual world system, to construct a virtual reality environment to mimic an actual setting that might be used as a Strategic National Stockpile (SNS) distribution site for northern California in the event of a bioterrorist attack. Scripted characters were integrated into the system as mock patients to analyze various clinic workflow scenarios. Users tested the virtual environment over two sessions.
Results: Thirteen users who toured the environment were asked to complete an evaluation survey. Respondents reported that the virtual reality system was relevant to their practice and had potential as a method of bioterrorism defense training.
Conclusions: Computer simulations of bioterrorism defense training scenarios are feasible with existing personal computer technology. The use of internet-connected virtual environments holds promise for bioterrorism defense training. Recommendations are made for public health agencies regarding the implementation and benefits of using virtual reality for mass prophylaxis clinic training.