WIISARD Kickoff Meeting Teams Engineers, Docs with Emergency Responders

12.2.03 -- In a day's worth of meetings stretched over two, UCSD engineers and medical doctors met with emergency responders to learn about each other's needs and cultures, and begin planning implementation for the WIISARD project, recently funded by the National Library of Medicine. WIISARD, led by PI Leslie Lenert, stands for Wireless Internet Information System for Medical Response in Disasters. It includes the participation of industrial partners QUALCOMM and Ericsson; local fire departments and emergency medical responders; and the County of San Diego Office of Public Health.

WIISARD meeting
WIISARD meeting

The meetings included three breakout sessions on wireless connectivity, hazmat and triage, and patient systems. Key collaborators include Professor William Griswold (Computer Science and Engineering), Dr. Chaitan Baru and Dr. Mike Bailey (SDSC), and Professor Ramesh Rao (Electrical and Computer Engineering).

"We're beginning to understand the needs of the Metropolitan Medical Strike Team," says Rao, who is also UCSD Division Director and Co-PI of a related emergency response, NSF-funded project called RESCUE, "so we can prototype capabilities they will find useful." The MMST practices drills four times a year, but, to date, has never had to deploy to address an actual emergency.

Some of the meeting attendees, including Rao, tried on level-A or "moon" suits, which afford the greatest degree of protection under conditions, for example, of chemical attack. The suits, including a breathing apparatus that provides oxygen for an hour and shoes, weigh on the order of 60 pounds, with the humidity inside rising to 100% in seven minutes and a temperature differential of 20% (higher inside the suit). "These suits put you in a different mode," says Rao. "It's almost like you're in slow motion -- it forces you to focus on the importance of user interfaces."

Level-A SuitLevel-A SuitLevel-A Suit
Ramesh Rao tries on level-A suit to help understand the needs and constraints of the MMST

Space has been allocated to this project on the sixth floor of EBU 1, near a third Calit²-related visualization center, which is about to open. The other two visualization centers are at the UCSD/Scripps Institution of Oceanography and San Diego State University.

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