High-tech response to terrorism to be developed

    A new, federally-funded research project established at UCSD to customize existing programs to build a wireless medical response system for mass casualties, was given a three-year $4.1 million grant from the National Library of Medicine on Oct. 23.

    Called the Wireless Internet Information System for Medical Response in Disasters, the program will recruit the participation of local San Diego police, firefighters, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, paramedics and other first aid response teams to develop the use of advanced wireless technology in response to mass-casualty disasters.

    “”We are in a world where we are routinely preparing for the unthinkable,”” WIISARD Project Director and Professor of Medicine Leslie Lenert said. “”Disasters happen in various scales: the World Trade Center, dangerous chemical leakages, smallpox and epidemics. The goal of WIISARD is to come up with an infrastructure to make medical assistance possible.””

    Under current technology, first responders create an immediate scene assessment and disaster command center. Emergency personnel evaluate victims, provide treatment and prioritize the patients. This system often overwhelms limited resources, according to Lennert.

    “”We are anticipating many situations, from victims inadvertently contaminating a hospital after exposure, to delays in transportation,”” Lenert said. “”The current medical informational technology is effective but simplistic. They are based on technology from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, rather than the current technology.””

    WIISARD will modify the current technologies in order to adapt for mass-casualty disasters. The project will employ radio tags that track the location of victims and responders, supply frontline emergency responders with handheld personal data assistants to generate access to patient medical data, and monitor “”hot zones,”” or contaminated areas. WIISARD will also send medical data from the fields to the hospitals for preparatory guidelines.

    “”The federal government realized that the local jurisdiction was not prepared for disasters that would create such an overwhelming number of victims who are the initial responders,”” said Metropolitan Medical Strike Team Director Theodore Chan. “”San Diego is the first to develop this sort of network.””

    WIISARD will be based on third-generation wireless technology, which can provide high-speed transmission of real-time medical and personal data from local jurisdictions to a command center in San Diego. PDAs will equip an Active First Responder system intended to locate “”hot zones”” so that responders don’t accidentally enter a contaminated area. It is also designed to utilize handheld devices already in use by UCSD students by reworking the campus communication system, involving instant messaging and utilizing clickable maps.

    A dilemma with the World Trade Center attack was the failure of communication satellites resulting in the victims’ inability to get cell phone reception. WIISARD will use a wireless network connected to various satellite systems. If one shuts down, then another will serve as a connection service, according to co-project director Ramesh Rao.

    “”We want to create a system able to monitor thousands among thousands of people,”” Rao said.

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