Tuesday, 21 August 2007

Coming to an ambulance near you...

For the past year I have been involved in research into the effects of respirator equipment on paramedics when they carry out advanced care. To some of you this may be an irrelevance but I have taken an interest in this alongside a few others on the basis that, sooner or later, we are going to be tested.

At the moment there is no protection for frontline staff if a chemical, biological or nuclear weapon is detonated. We do, of course, have the LFB and our own HART teams but they won't necessarily be on scene at the moment we are expected to go underground or into a building after an attack. On 7/7 crews were taken underground to rescue the injured and dying before the risk of possible further attack, or even the nature of the bombs used, was fully assessed.

Of course, the practicalities of immediate care will always make 'safety first' an unreliable modus operandi so it is important that we have the following in place:

1. Fully operational, thoroughly tested and effective communications equipment.

2. Personal protection equipment that includes a respirator mask.

The research is ongoing and to date my colleagues and I have produced one published paper, with two or three more to come soon.

Personally, I don't feel protected enough to deal with the threat posed by possible future non-conventional attacks. I am perfectly willing to go anywhere I am asked to save lives but I would like to live to go home afterwards.



Anonymous said...

Interesting research. My viewpoint however is that we should focus on more mundane scenarios first.

Without wishing to belittle your concerns, I believe the possibility of a CBRN attack has been wildly overstated. You are way more likely to get stabbed or shot for instance.

I agree that PPE is essential. Indeed, I agree that carrying a face mask on the back of a van may be a simple enough step to mitigate potential harm.

But I believe focus should stay firmly on day-to-day safety issues rather than theoretical scaremongering.

BTW - you seem willing to disclose your identity now - is that a conscious decision?

Anonymous said...

btw, i meant to add, I hope you practised in more that just a respirator?
Have you ever worked in an NBC/CBRN suit - with it not fitting anywhere, gloves that restict your dexterity big time - they get sweaty and unless you're very fit, very tiring - i used to spend days in them on excercise

Xf said...


Good point. The risk of such attacks may be overestimated but even one small dirty bomb can do a hell of a lot of damage in terms of human loss.

I trained extensively as a soldier with CBRN equipment and, although our first study was concerned with respirator types, our next two studies look at suits too. We carried out the same routines with full suits, respirators and gloves on.

The point is not to argue whether there will or will not be such an attack; the point is to establish suitability of equipment, my own personal views aside.

An Australian medic has emailed me to confirm that they already have this equipment issued to them (in case of bird flu - which is inevitable according to many experts).

Yes, I have revealed my real name. I have no problem with that and neither do my bosses.

Anonymous said...

Did i miss something? What is your name then, and do we get to see a photo?!

steph said...

I take you at your word - with/without your name or identity - your writing says it all! Keep up the great work, and documenting it. I am totally gobsmacked by the abuse of the ambulance service - is this peculiar to London or is it commonplace?

Anonymous said...

Sorry, i get it now-was having a dim moment!

Anonymous said...

Steph, abuse is common everywhere for Ambulance Crews. I've been stabbed (saved by a diary in my pocket) and attacked with a hammer (lucky I was faster than the looney chasing me)! Those are just 2 of many.

Sooner or later, my luck is gonna run out.

Phil, SRPara

Jeanie said...

I think you should have all the eqipment necessary to keep you safe and able to attend to your patients without having to worry about your surrounding, the cost could be taken from the over inflated salaries of your bosses. Why do others who leave comments want to know your name then, all they have to do is buy your book when it comes out in October, I am going to have one as an early birthday gift to myself.

Micheal said...

You often use the term "BM". In the land of the free that usually referrs to a bathroom function. I just laughed when you had said one pts didn't flinch when you did this. Look it up in you handy search box. I'll continue laughing till you get back.

Anonymous said...

BM stands for Boehringer Mannheim...it was a German Pharmaceutical company who produced the glucose test strips. I believe the company is now called Roche.

Phil, SRPara.

Dave said...

BM Is actuually a Blood Sugar test. Its short fro bedside monitoring i belive.

steph said...

anonymous phil - I should have said "by the 'scale' of abuse". It's a well known fact that paramedics take their lives in their hands everytime they go out on a call into the 'unknown' - it's just that I had no idea quite how bad it is out there! I'm full of admiration.

John said...

dave - Phil is right, it stands for Boehringer Mannheim, who used to be the only company who made the blood sugar testing strips.