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Videogame Tech Helps With Disaster Planning

Thanks to disaster-simulation software inspired by videogames, David Friedman has a new family member: Jordan, a yellow Labrador retriever puppy. The software helped emergency workers in Louisiana rescue Jordan -- and 15,000 other stranded pets -- during Hurricane Gustav.

Volunteers like Friedman patched together an escape route for the animals using a disaster-preparedness simulator called Depiction. Friedman combined his amateur radio skills with simulations he had already created of the Baton Rouge area to map open roads, even without an internet connection. Volunteers picked up animals at 19 locations and coordinated 133 tractor trailers.

It's just one example of how disaster-modeling software can help responders create rescue plans in real time. During Katrina, some emergency workers used Google Earth Pro to map evacuation routes. Others have used MapPoint and XMap in crises...

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