3 products to improve firefighter, EMS provider safety

Robert Avsec

At the Fire-Rescue Med 2017 Conference, I saw three EMS products that really caught my attention. Enough so that I took the time to speak at length with each of the vendor representatives. When I look at new fire and EMS equipment, I have three evaluation criteria:

1. Will it make the job safer for the firefighter or medic?
2. Will it make the firefighter or medic more effective?
3. Will it make the firefighter or medic more efficient?

I believe you’ll agree that these products score a "yes" on all three of my questions.

1. Back injury prevention

The Binder Lift patient lifting and moving device has been on the market for several years. It's an easy to apply patient lifting device that gives the EMS provider 25 handles to work with when getting a patient off the floor and on to the stretcher. Using the Binder Lift can dramatically reduce the risk of back injuries – about 60 percent of which occur when moving the patient on to or off a stretcher, backboard or stair chair. Here's how the Binder Lift helps prevent injuries:

  • There are always handles in a direct line between the lifter and the patient. This promotes proper lifting ergonomics.
  • The number of available handles promotes team lifting, sharing the load to all lifters. This reduces the risk of overexertion when one lifter has the bulk of the load.
  • The number and placement of handles prevents overextension – reaching out while lifting – for all lifters.

EMS providers have a one in two chance of sustaining an on-the-job back injury and that patient handling activities are the single greatest risk for musculoskeletal injuries. Proper lifting ergonomics can have a positive impact on reducing those injuries.

Beyond improved EMS provider safety, the Binder Lift gives EMS providers a tool for significantly reducing the risk of injury to the patient. A patient can suffer skin tears, bruising and pressure wounds when EMS providers have nothing to grasp, except the patient’s limbs, when lifting the patient off the floor. Using a sheet or blanket is not much better as the instability can cause a back injury for the lifter or injury to the patient if dropped because the lifter lost their grip.

2. Patient extrication

Captain (Ret.) Marc Segal of the Los Angeles Fire Department developed the RexONE Rapid Extracation system to meet the patient extraction needs of the LAFD Bike Medics. While the bike medics could rapidly reach and treat patients in large crowds or remote from city streets, they frequently had to wait for the stretcher to reach their location.

Once the patient was loaded on the stretcher, it would take four people – one on each corner – to safely get the patient back to the transporting ambulance. This patient movement was further complicated when moving the stretcher across rough, uneven and sometimes crowded terrain.

The RexONE is a patient evacuation stretcher that can be operated by one EMS provider or firefighter to rapidly move a patient across any type of terrain. The patient can be transported in either a supine or sitting position; the latter being useful when airway maintenance is a care consideration.

For mass casualty situations or hostile environments, the RexONE can be a force multiplier that enables more patients to be quickly evacuated to a casualty collection point using a smaller number of firefighters or EMS providers.

3. Handheld, point-of-care testing

NFPA 1584 Standard on the Rehabilitation Process for Members During Emergency Operations and Training Exercises (2015 Edition) requires the assessment of firefighter vital signs – heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature and blood pressure – for those firefighters entering rehabilitation. It also requires that all firefighters who’ve been exposed to smoke be assessed for possible carbon monoxide poisoning.

The symptoms of CO poisoning are non-specific and easy to miss. Frequently, victims typically present with symptoms more closely associated with the flu or food poisoning. The Masimo Rad-57 can be a two-in-one piece of patient care equipment that gives EMS providers a pulse oximeter and a field tool for detecting CO poisoning in patients.

The standard unit measures oxygen saturation (SpO2), pulse rate and perfusion index parameters. The unit can be upgraded before shipment or field upgraded to measure carboxyhemoglobin (SpCO), methemoglobin (SpMet), total hemoglobin (SpHb), oxygen content (SpOC) and Pleth Variable Index (PVI).

These three pieces of EMS equipment each meet my evaluation criteria. What criteria do you use when evaluating new EMS care equipment for your department?

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