New tools to help victims of CBRN incidents

Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) materials are hazardous and represent an important potential risk to human beings. An EU-funded project is developing a 'field toolbox' for emergency services and medical personnel to aid victims of CBRN exposure.

Chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) materials can be released by accident from fixed facilities or during transport, or through intentional and malicious actions. The purpose of the EU-funded TOXI-TRIAGE project is to provide authorities with advanced tools to help human victims in the event that CBRN materials are released into the environment.

The TOXI-TRIAGE team is developing and trialling an integrated 'field toolbox' to be used by responders in the event of a CBRN incident, particularly one involving multiple casualtie

It includes specialised instruments and sensors that can be worn by responders, attached to uniforms and headgear, or carried in a backpack. These tools can detect specific toxic industrial chemicals or chemical warfare agents in an incident area. Specialised monitoring devices can identify metabolic markers, enabling the rapid, non-invasive assessment of victims' exposure and injury.

The toolbox also includes portable unmanned aerial vehicles, drones, equipped with their own specialised sensors, cameras and other devices, to identify and map the location of contaminants.

Wireless traceability of potential casualties is another important capability of TOXI-TRIAGE. This can vastly improve the overall efficiency when responders working in difficult conditions have to cope with numbers of victims.

The toolbox allows responders in the field to communicate with a command-and-control centre, where artificial intelligence is used to process sensor signals as well as web traffic from social media. This means that rescue services have real-time access to the best possible information and decision-making resources.

TOXI-TRIAGE systems and sensors have undergone rigorous testing, including clinical trials at poison clinics and live-agent tests in laboratories designated by the UN’s Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

Most recently, the toolbox was field tested in a simulated sarin (nerve agent) attack in real-life conditions in an air force base near Athens, Greece. The exercise involved research partners as well as civil protection and military units and medical emergency experts. The system worked well although some valuable lessons were learned, providing insights into how to further improve the performance of the tools.

The toolbox can be supplied to various services and end-users, including police, fire and ambulance services, and military and hospital personnel. It can also be used routinely in emergency and search-and-rescue operations in urban and other environments.

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