It's pretty well known that people in the emergency services like stuff -- especially new stuff. And, it looks like there's some cool new stuff in the pipeline for gadget folks.
What would you think about a handheld device that can help make triage decisions from 40 feet with the scan of a laser that can measure respirations and pulse? Or, how about a firefighter-locator that can help pinpoint responders in three-dimensions?
Or what about a sniffing device that can measure airborne toxins and assess hazmat situations from vehicle-mounted sensors for real time information as the fire truck, ambulance, or cruiser rolls up on the scene?
While some of this stuff might sound like science fiction, especially the patient scanner which seems to be right out Star Trek, it's very real. There's even a first-person video game designed to teach responders triage and patient care modeled after the popular game "Halo."
During Thursday's Expo sessions in Atlanta, Ga. presenter Erik Gaull, NREMT-P CEM talked about new products that are expected to be available to providers in the near future. Gaull's presentation was called "New & Emerging Technologies for EMS Responders."
Gaull, who is a senior director with G&H International Services Inc, in Washington, D.C., is a paramedic, a certified emergency manager, a fire officer/instructor, hazmat instructor and a law enforcement officer. He also serves on the Department of Homeland Security's First Responder Technology Clearinghouse Program.
"I want to talk about some products that that I think are cool," Gaull said, noting that many of the newest stuff is coming out of the private sector, with some funding coming from the Department of Homeland Security.
Gaull spoke of a scanner in development that will read the backs of the eyes looking for indications of chemical exposure. He said certain chemicals leave distinctive markers on the backs of the eyes.
"The level of exposure can be determined in a matter of seconds, whereas if we had to take blood gases readings it's going to be a lot longer because you have to get the blood sample, you have to go to the lab and you have to read the results," Gaull said.
The device, which looks a little like a thermal imaging camera, was originally designed to quickly assess the public for exposure to harmful chemicals and agents. The purpose of the device transformed from measuring several different gases in the general civilian population to measuring just two, CO and cyanide, two common killers of first responders.
"This changed from being a device that was orientated for fire responders assessing patients, to first responders assessing first responders," Gaull said.
The patient scanning device Gaull spoke of uses Laser Doppler Vibrometer technology which can measure movement, respirations, pulses and even body temperature.
"Imagine the use of a device like that," he said. "You roll up on the scene of an accident and you've got 20 people strewn all across the field and it's just you and your partner," he said.
"You'd have to go to each one and do triage while your partner goes to get stuff off the rig." He said with the scanner, one person could assess all the patients by simply pushing a button and pointing the beam at the victims.
"It will tell you whether they were breathing, whether they had a pulse, whether they were warm, and that's pretty much what you need right there for triage," Gaull said. "This is not fantasy. This is reality."
Not all the new technologies Gaull spoke of were high tech. In fact at least one was decidedly low-tech.
Gaull mentioned a product called NOXO, anti-odor gel developed to help responders block nauseating and offensive odors when applied topically under the nostrils.
He mentioned that many responders use Vicks VapoRub, or Tiger Balm as masking agents to cover up the odors of dead bodies, cat urine, feces, and a litany of other offensive smells.