Controlling Chaos with Mobile Readers

First responders are charged with the responsibility of saving lives and making sense of chaos in challenging situations that evolve by the minute. A tall order in any environment, emergency situations have the added challenge of emotional stress, unfamiliar teams working together and countless variables unique to a particular situation.

In the past, as first responders arrived on the scene, they were manually tracked with paper and pencil, but new mobile technology offers better tools to manage the situation by tracking emergency workers as they come and go, accounting for people and equipment, and assessing the credentials of those on the scene.

A mobile handheld reader loaded with incident management and accountability software like interTRAX® MOBILE from Salamander Technologies puts all of this capability literally into the hands of the first responders directing search and rescue operations. As emergency workers arrive, their identification cards can be scanned, providing an instant record of each person’s name, contact information and credentials. Companies and rescue teams can alternatively present a single credential pre-loaded with information about each team member and the equipment they’re bringing on scene.

Leveraging information to help responders

With this information, first responders can better leverage resources on a scene by directing individuals with specific skills—like medical, explosives or hazmat — where they are needed most and having an at-a-glance understanding of the reporting structure of the incident.

A handheld computer, like DAP Technologies’ M3240 or M2000 handhelds, that is rugged and can read multiple forms of credentials is essential for managing the variety of credentials on a scene. Given the challenging environmental conditions of emergency situations, the computer needs to be rugged enough to withstand overspray from fire hoses, driving rain, dirt and debris, blazing temperatures and drops to concrete.

While Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12) means the PIV-I/First Responder Authentication Credential (FRAC) is on its way to becoming the government-mandated standard credential for first responders at the local, state and national level, a variety of credentials are still being used.

With the flexibility to read smart cards, HID Proximity Cards, driver’s licenses and credit cards, a mobile reader can also be used in the process to triage victims in situations with mass casualties. By scanning whatever form of identification the patient has, the emergency worker can document individual conditions, assign priorities; identify who has been treated and what treatments have been used.

Mobile readers help assess the situation

In a mass casualty situation, where there may be dozens or even hundreds of interagency responders, the atmosphere is near chaotic, and communications are— at best—stressed, the ability to effectively control triage/treatment/transport functions, maintain personnel accountability, and site security is imperative. Mobile technology provides an important tool for managing the situation on-scene, and is especially useful when it can be automatically sent to off-scene managers who need this same information to plan, mobilize, and coordinate emergency medical resources and dispatch additional response teams as needed.

Barcode scanners are another important capability for the handheld reader because equipment can be identified and tagged separately. By scanning a 2D tag on a rescue vehicle like a fire truck, important information about the vehicle’s capabilities—for example, is that a 50-foot or a 105-foot ladder and a 500-gpm or a1250-gpm pump?—is quickly known.

At the end of the day, emergency response is about saving lives and ensuring safety and security. The use of mobile readers and advanced accountability software can result in better situational awareness for the incident manager and a system that mitigates human error and improves delivery of essential, life- and property-saving services.