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Three years experience with forward-site mass casualty triage-, evacuation-, operating room-, ICU-, and radiography-enabled disaster vehicles: Development of usage strategies from drills and deployments

Jane L. Griffiths, RN, BAN, MHP, Neil R. Kirby, ASM, MPH, B Bus HRD, BA, Ass Dip App Sc (Ambulance), James A. Waterson, RN, BA (Hons), M. Med Ed


Objective: Delineation of the advantages and problems related to the use of forward-site operating room-, Intensive Care Unit (ICU)-, radiography-, and mass casualty-enabled disaster vehicles for site evacuation, patient stabilization, and triage.

Setting: The vehicles discussed have six ventilated ICU spaces, two ORs, on-site radiography, 21 intermediate acuity spaces with stretchers, and 54 seated minor acuity spaces. Each space has piped oxygen with an independent vehicle-loaded supply. The vehicles are operated by the Dubai Corporate Ambulance Services. Their support hospital is the main trauma center for the Emirate of Dubai and provides the vehicles' surgical, intensivist, anesthesia, and nursing staff. The disaster vehicles have been deployed 264 times in the last 5 years (these figures do not include deployments for drills).

Interventions: Introducing this new service required extensive initial planning and ongoing analysis of the performance of the disaster vehicles that offer ambulance services and receiving hospitals a largearray of possibilities in terms of triage, stabilization of priority I and II patients, and management of priority III patients.

Preliminary results: In both drills and in disasters, the vehicles were valuable in forward triage and stabilization and in the transport of large numbers of priority III patients. This has avoided the depletion of emergency transport available for priority I and II patients.

Conclusions: The successful utilization of disaster vehicles requires seamless cooperation between the hospital staffing the vehicles and the ambulance service deploying them. They are particularly effective during preplanned deployments to high-risk situations. These vehicles also potentially provide self-sufficient refuges for forward teams in hostile environments.


forward site, triage, mass casualty, evacuation, disaster vehicle

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