Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Systems Help 1st Responders

EFR MedCom is an emergency first responder command and communications platform enabling faster and more accurate analysis and response to complex emergencies. Launched by Med Red, LLC and developed with support from the Army’s Telemedicine Advanced Technology Research Center, the software application allows emergency responders at local, state, and federal levels to communicate and collaborate more effectively in emergency situations such as catastrophic accidents, natural disasters, and terror attacks.

The technology gives first responders the ability to:

  • Communicate using hand-held computers that permit near instantaneous voice and text communications between Emergency First Responders and Command and Control Centers.
  • Communicate critical medical data through an electronic medical record embedded in an interactive hand-held computer
  • Download relevant health information from the National Health Information Network (NHIN) and Google Health, and then communicate this data to key personnel, health centers, and agencies nationwide using handhelds

EFR MedCom rapidly transmits detailed clinical information to the secure server where it is accessible to medical facilities and command centers through the web-based Command and Control Portal. This enables Command and Control to monitor illness patterns, reports of exposure, and the location of casualties. This can be useful information to identify patterns that might signal an act of terrorism or other medical emergency.

“Real-time communication and accurate information are critical to saving lives during an emergency,” said Dr. William K. Smith, Founder of MedRed. “First responders on the ground need to be able to collect health information quickly and share the data broadly with others in order to formulate the best plan of action.”

The system will be available for piloting or purchase by national, state, and local first responder organizations on June 1, 2009. The company is also looking to create a pilot project for the system in Washington and one or two other major urban areas.

Another approach that is helping first responders, involves using a new web-based software program called PolARES to address crisis-based decision-making. The program was developed by AlphaTRAC, an emergency management consulting firm based in Colorado to make it possible for responders to receive more timely input during emergencies. PolARES was funded internally at AlphaTRAC and through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

PolARES contains a database of decisions made by first responders during various situations and the actions taken. The system is designed to help a decision maker decide on a course of action based on the experiences mined from a knowledge base built by the response community.

The database is maintained at a central location for each response community and accessible through the internet. Users can run the application located on the central server or the application can be downloaded to their computers. The database is continuously changing and downloads daily to their machine with the latest version.

The system is based on the Recognition Primed Decision Method (RpDM) that focuses on identifying changes in an event and using these changes to proactively make decisions as opposed to the conventional reactive approach that involves analyzing a situations and responding.

The program uses six steps to size up the situation. These steps include selecting questions or cues to identify a case from a community knowledge base, comparing cases, modifying the case and decisions suggested by PolARES, playing out the decision either alone or with other team members, and the last important step is put the decisions made into action.