Chemical, Biological Detectors to Improve First Responder Reaction

By Stew Magnuson

For first responders dealing with chemical or biological attacks or accidents, every second counts.

Two companies are working to cut down the amount of time it takes hazardous material response teams and hospitals to understand what threat they are facing.

RAE Systems Inc. is offering cloud-hosted service for real-time detection and sharing of gas and radiation data across multiple remote sites. The ProRAE Guardian CloudServer connects to the company’s suites of wireless sensors.

Connecting the data to the Internet facilitates mutual response from other hazmat teams or agencies such as National Guard units or the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“Now you can seamlessly integrate all those units and really coordinate large-scale events,” said Bobby Sheikhan, director of product management at RAE.

Data collected at a site where nerve gasses or toxic industrial chemicals are released can be accessed securely in real-time by any authorized user — including global experts in incident remediation that could be anywhere in the world, he said.

The cloud service follows the introduction last year of the company’s new mesh routers, which allows for closed-loop wireless communications and also extended the range between the host and the monitors from 330 feet up to 0.6 miles. RAE’s handheld, multi-modal sensors can detect radiation and hazardous gasses. Included in the system is a weather-monitoring sensor that can indicate wind speed and direction and let decision-makers know where a toxic cloud may be heading.

Also part of the system is the BioHarness, a health monitoring system that lets incident commanders know if a hazmat team member is in trouble. It keeps tabs on their heart rate, body temperature and can tell them if they have collapsed.

“It gives you the ability to monitor multiple locations and really gives you a quick assessment of what you are dealing with, where [the toxic cloud] is heading, and allows you to make critical decisions,” said Sheikhan.

Meanwhile, Rapid Pathogen Screening, Inc., is hoping to speed up the amount of time it takes medical professionals to determine what kind of infections they may encounter in a mass illness scenario.

The company set out to see if it could provide something as simple as a diabetes test — a prick of blood — and accurately and quickly tell those in medical triage situations whether they are dealing with viral or bacterial infections, said Robert W. VanDine, RPS chief government affairs officer.

There are two strips: one for viral infections and one for bacteria. Any medically qualified person such as nurses or first responders can do the test.

Results are provided within 10 minutes. There is no sample preparation, and the indicator is easy to read — think home pregnancy tests with plusses or minuses, he said.

“Those are what we call key medical decision points,” he said. In a mass casualty scenario, the test would be able to screen those who are infected or not infected and quarantine those who require it.

Patients can start on an initial course of antibiotics if it were bacterial infection as further tests are conducted to pinpoint the exact nature of the problem.

The product is entering Food and Drug Administration approval process. RPS hopes to have the test available for use by hospitals and government customers by August 2013.  The Department of Homeland Security recently signed a contract to help develop the packaging of the product for Customs and Border Protection, Transportation Security Administration and FEMA personnel who may encounter diseases.

Topics: Chem Bio Protection, Homeland Security, Disaster Response, Science and Technology

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