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Civilian agencies look to Military technology for future response efforts

Civilian agencies look to Military technology for future response efforts

12/07/2009  |  K12 award winning curriculum

Since the H1N1 Virus first emerged this past spring, government and civilian agencies across the world have taken steps to prevent spread of the illness. Schools have been closed, travel restrictions have been implemented and, most recently, vaccination clinics have been set up to provide mass immunization services.

The H1N1 outbreak has also made it clear to agencies that they must have mobile facilities available, from medical surge facilities to points of distribution, if they hope to control future disasters. For some civilian responders this has meant turning to the same soft-walled shelter technology that has long been used by American soldiers.

One example of this was seen on Oct. 1, when emergency medical technicians and health officials from across Fairfield, Connecticut deployed a 10-bed mobile field hospital as part of a demonstration led by the state Department of Public Health. The training exercise was designed to better prepare local first responders for a large-scale emergency, such as a pandemic outbreak or natural disaster, in which medical surge facilities would be needed.

The hospital, which participants were able to set up in less than an hour, was part of the 100-bed Ottilie W. Lundgren Memorial Field Hospital purchased from military shelter manufacturer DHS Systems LLC. The complete facility is comprised of 24 of the company’s patented Deployable Rapid Assembly Shelters (DRASH) that have been deployed by all branches of the U.S. Military, as well as 28 DRASH Utility Transport Support (UST) Trailers that provide for mobility, power and environmental control.

Featuring heating and cooling, as well as the power needed to run defibrillators, intravenous infusion pumps, ventilators and other necessary medical equipment, personnel expect to use the field hospital as a triage area in the event of a widespread health crisis.

Fairfield Health Director Sands Clearly explained to The Connecticut Post following the training event. “It’s providing additional hospital capacity in an emergency situation.”

While responders in Fairfield plan to use soft-walled shelters during future emergencies, some civilian organizations are already deploying these mobile infrastructures in response to the current pandemic. In September, staff at the Dell Children’s Medical Hospital in Austin, Texas set up two DRASH Shelters outside of the hospital’s emergency room to serve as triage and treatment centers during this year’s flu season. Medical personnel, hoping to relieve the hospital’s overcrowded emergency room, are using the space to examine and, if needed, treat patients showing less severe symptoms.

Similarly, on Nov. 4, the Madison County Health Department in Indiana set up two DRASH Shelters as part of a drive-thru H1N1 vaccination clinic. The mobile clinic allowed health personnel to administer nearly 2,000 vaccinations to local residents in just a few hours.

Soft-walled shelters will continue to play an increasing role in homeland response efforts as civilian agencies look to these mobile facilities as an innovative way of establishing the proper workspace in the field. Though once seen solely on the battlefield, the current health crisis has proven that soft-walled shelters can help ensure that civilians, like soldiers, are prepared for any emergency.

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