This week it was KwaZulu Natal’s turn to get the weather! Tuesday’s flash flood claimed 11 lives, and caused damage to hospitals, at least 133 schools, factories, homes and key infrastructure. Power outages were also reported, as the storm spread up the East coast towards the City of uMhlathuze, incorporating Empangeni and Richards Bay. Chad Mileham reported on Tuesday that the Emergency 7.110 Net was activated by 13h00, and kept a listening watch, until any likelihood of further damage had dissipated. In idle speculation, I estimated that, if that amount of rain had fallen in the catchment area of Cape Town’s dams, our drought would have been broken and dams completely filled! Nature just isn’t fair, is it?
Kobus van der Merwe drew our attention to the magnitude 6.6 earthquake very near Bouvet Island on Tuesday, with the possibility of a Tsunami aimed at us, which fortunately didn’t happen. He pondered on how equipped we would be to deal with this kind of coastal flooding. Good question!
Chad Mileham has also been posting the ARRL posts regarding the effects of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico to the HAMNET Facebook Pages. Look for HAMNET on Facebook, and you will find two pages to view. Thank you Chad!
Advance warning of severe weather conditions come from Vietnam, where Cyclone Khanun-17 is expected to strike from the East on Tuesday; and England and Ireland, where Hurricane Ophelia-17 is threatening from the South-West, moving slowly up off the coast of North Africa and destined for Ireland on Sunday, and England on Monday. And California’s residents and fire agencies are battling 18 huge wildfires that have claimed about 24 lives, forced at least 100,000 people to evacuate their homes, and destroyed countless properties. The Amateur Radio Emergency Service in that country is heavily involved with coordination and management of the evacuees.
Researchers at William Carey University in Mississippi are studying how disaster drones could carry medical kits to victims in a mass casualty event, before an ambulance arrives. Bystanders could use the kits to help victims, or first responders on the scene could use them when multiple victims are injured.
CNN says the disaster drones, which also could deliver medicine to hard-to-reach remote locations, were designed and built at Hinds Community College in Mississippi. The researchers have various prototypes, said Italo Subbarao, senior associate dean at William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine, who is involved in the university’s telemedicine drone research project.
“We have a kit that is a general medical emergency kit that we would probably fly to a farmer’s home, for a rural type of general medical emergency,” Subbarao said, such as a heart attack.
“We’ve got kits that are designed to go into the wilderness so that if you’re stung by a bee or you’ve got a snake bite, things of that nature, we can provide assistance in that moment,” he said. “Most recently, we demonstrated our trauma kits.”
These kits could be used in a mass casualty event like a terror attack or a train crash, or when someone needs critical care. “We look at this as a piece of the puzzle, an important piece of the puzzle, that can connect with the local emergency management system,” he said.
Subbarao and his colleagues follow in the footsteps of researchers around the world who are investigating how drones could help save lives and possibly even beat an ambulance to a medical emergency scene.
A team of researchers in Sweden recently tested whether a drone or an ambulance had a faster response time in delivering an automated external defibrillator to a patient in cardiac arrest. The device gives instructions to a bystander to use it for checking the heart rhythm and, if needed, sending an electric shock to the heart to try to restore a normal rhythm.
The researchers conducted 18 consecutive flights with the drone, with an average flight distance of 3.2 kilometers, or about 2 miles. They compared the dispatch and travel time of the drone with the dispatch and travel time of emergency medical services.
The researchers found that the drone arrived more quickly than EMS in all cases, with an average reduction in response time of about 16 minutes, and that no adverse events or technical problems occurred during any of the drone flights. During a medical emergency, those minutes can be the difference between life and death. This preliminary study was published in the journal JAMA in June.
Yet much more research needs to be conducted before you could see first-responder drones flying around, delivering medical care.
Certain limitations of the technology include whether a drone could carry heavy medical supplies, could withstand the impact of extreme weather or could limit the risk of technical glitches.
In Mississippi, Subbarao and his colleagues are planning to continue their research.
“For now, we’ve been working with the Mississippi Emergency Management (Agency) and Mississippi (State) Department of Public Health. We’re in conversations with the state agencies to help us study our product, help us refine what we’re doing here,” Subbarao said.
Whether in Sweden or the United States, how would a disaster drone work? First, each drone should be equipped with medical kits and instructions.
In the US, those kits could incorporate recommendations put forth in the federal Department of Homeland Security’s initiative Stop the Bleed, which is intended to help bystanders become trained, equipped and empowered to tend to emergency situations before professional help arrives, according to developers.
A drone could also include audio or video communication systems so that the person who receives it could talk to a doctor for assistance. The researchers in Mississippi have been working with Google Glass and other types of visual technologies for this communications aspect, Subbarao said.
Thank you to CNN for these notes.
A fairly shallow cold front is approaching the Western Cape as I write this, and, if the rain gods look kindly on us, up to 22mm of rain could fall in these parts between now and next Thursday. Please hold thumbs for us..
This is Dave Reece ZS1DFR reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.