Tools for emergency officials – improved preparation against disasters

Triage, the process of determining the priority of patients' treatments based on the severity of their condition, known to emergency workers, has been updated to the digital era. TOXI-Triage, an EU project that ended recently, has developed technical aids for assessing the need for care and immediately sending a clear and quick situation awareness to commanders of the emergency services.

VERIFIN, the Finnish Institute for Verification of the Chemical Weapons Convention at the University of Helsinki was responsible for developing a tool box for identifying chemical weapons within the TOXI-Triage project. In practice, the tool box is an easily used web-based database on the University of Helsinki server.  

For first responders such as paramedics and firefighters who are first on the scene of an accident, a quick assessment of the situation is vital, not least because they need to be able to assume the right level of protection.

Advice on how to recognise the symptoms of a radiation accident, and how to safeguard against exposure are also included in the tool box. The Laboratory of Radiochemistry at the University of Helsinki has been in charge of developing it. 

Command centre listening

The project developed a RFID based wristband that can be read remotely, which allows responders to record and update accident victims’ or patients’ data as the situation develops.  The updated information is sent to the command centre in real time. How many need specialist care? Which hospital has space for the patients? With the help of GPS, the speed of a clean-up route or the progress of taking patients to hospital can be monitored. This information will help in commanding operation and managing resources.

Researchers and companies from nine European countries have participated in the TOXI-Triage project. In addition to the University of Helsinki, Finnish participants included the South-Savo rescue service, the University of Jyväskylä, and Environics.

In spring 2019, tests were carried out in Mikkeli to see how information on radionuclides and chemicals could be gathered by a drone flown over an accident site. In field tests simulants were used. The knowledge VERIFIN has of methods for analysing chemical warfare agents was necessary for ensuring in laboratory conditions that the equipment developed within the project would work with hazardous agents.

- The functional and tested tools are now awaiting commercial implementation, says Director Paula Vanninen of VERIFIN.

Further research is also necessary. According to Vanninen, recognition of exposure to chlorine is one of the coming stages of development, with which VERIFIN will be working.

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