Researchers developing disaster-planning tool that will work like a video game

Published on March 20, 2017

The Armdale traffic circle, located near the Northwest Arm, is seen in Halifax on Monday, March 20, 2017. The roundabout receives traffic in five directions and is one of the main entrance and exit points to the city. Researchers at Dalhousie University have established a computer model that incorporates traffic statistics that could help emergency planners better prepare for a mass evacuation of the city in case of flooding or similar crisis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

HALIFAX — A pair of researchers in Halifax are working on a computerized disaster-planning simulator that will one day function like a multiplayer video game.

The first version has already plotted what could happen if the port city is inundated by a sudden, catastrophic flood — a scenario that could be adapted to different emergencies across the country.

Professor Ahsan Habib at Dalhousie University says a test of an early model has suggested it would take 15 hours to evacuate the Halifax peninsula if the ocean rose between 3.9 and 7.9 metres.

Habib says the peninsula has narrow roads and only five exit points, which would make a mass evacuation particularly difficult.

Dalhousie professor Kevin Quigley says the gaming scenario, which will be used to train emergency planning officials, has yet to include several variables including widespread panic, but that is coming.

The Canadian Press