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.
"The gel alters the way the brain interprets the smell," Gaull said. "It makes you think it's vanilla." He commented that the price is $15 for 10 single application packets.
"That's a buck fifty each," he said. "And with some of the smells I've smelled, they can have my buck fifty," he said. "In fact they can have my three bucks per tube."
Gaull also spoke of the so called flat-pack for firefighter SCBA. It weighs eight pounds and is about three-inches thick. The reduction in weight and size is huge and can only make the firefighter safer.
The flat-pack is going through some rigorous testing and is awaiting Department of Transportation approval and should be ready for field testing next year, Gaull said.
And then there are simple products like the Fire Compass, a device designed to keep firefighters oriented to their means of exit.
A product designed for the military called Monitoring Oxygen Ventilation & External Suction system, or MOVES, is also a new product according to Gaull, who said it is being used by the Marine Corp to efficiently move several wounded troops at a time.
It continuously monitors patients who are intubated and ventilates them as well, automatically. The battery-operated device is well suited for helicopter evacuation, patient air transport and other long distance transport, Gaull said.
Remote Sensor Nodes
Gaull also talked about a product called Tera Hop, small transmitter devices called remote sensor nodes. A device, which is about the size of a deck of cards, will transmit and receive all different kinds of signals like Blue Tooth, 802.11 and others.
The nodes were designed for the cargo train industry because it would allow the engineers to quickly learn whether box cars and items in them had been opened and tampered with, or had simply shifted and broken open. Firefighters can use the same information when making decisions on how to approach scenes, Gaull said.
The nodes also have applications for triage patients as responders can give the nodes to the patients and the incident commander can then tell exactly where the patients are and what their priority for care is: green, yellow, red.
It could also provide commanders with real time information concerning the patient's whereabouts, as it could transmit a signal indicating the patient had been taken to the hospital, or was in stage, or still in the field.
"Think about what a mess it would be to try to handle a hundred patients in a train wreck with paper and pencil," Gaull said.
Gaull also discussed a new mapping system that uses smart phones that can transmit videos from scenes and then be overlaid on maps developed through satellites and available online. That information will give the responders real time information to send back to the incident commander, who will then be able to tell exactly what they are facing as they are making their plans for a response.
And, last but not least, a simulated environment game, called "Zero Hour" is available as a single player training system. It was developed by George Washington University under a cooperative agreement with the Department of Homeland Security.
"This software can take us to the next level," Gaull said, noting that it operates like the first-person player game called "Halo."
"It works, it's fun and it gives the user five different scenarios," Gaull said. "There are a bunch of different scenarios that simulate emergency environments." He said players can choose treatment modalities, like using tourniquets, pressure dressings, or dozens of different treatments for different wounds or medical emergencies.
"The patient responds appropriately to different treatment modalities," Gaull said, noting that as the game is updated and converted to a multi-player game, it could become a powerful training tool. Students from all over the country could link together and assume different roles in the scenario and work cooperatively with other agencies without having to fly all over the country to take advantage of the training.
"This is all out there and I would encourage all of you to go and check it out," Gaull said.