Simulations that help scenario planners manage emergencies

How will Singaporeans react during an emergency such as a fire or bomb blast? Will they evacuate the area in an orderly manner, or will they create chaos and turn violent?

A French multinational company involved in the security and defence sector is working with local universities and government agencies to figure this out, in preparation for every eventuality.

The company, Thales, has developed computer software that simulates what could happen in a crowded environment in a specific location, to help government scenario planners focus on what they should do in such situations.

"People" in the simulation are programmed based on statistical information of a particular population, and they act autonomously, just like in a computer game such as The Sims.

The system is already being used by the authorities in a few cities, such as Paris, to help with planning around sporting events, and Mecca, for the annual pilgrimage for Muslims.

The authorities here have not bought the system yet, said Mr Danny Beh, Thales' head of regional business development for security products.

Speaking to reporters at Interpol World, a security trade event that is held every two years, Mr Beh said: "A range of agencies have expressed interest within MHA (the Ministry of Home Affairs) and there are some discussions ongoing with the police and various other ancillary agencies."

Private companies involved in facilitating large sports and public events also seem keen, he said.

Because different populations behave differently due to social, cultural and psychological factors, the individuals in the simulation and their behaviour have to be refined to fit the Singapore context, which the company is working with educational institutions here to do.

This article was first published on April 17, 2015.
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