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Republican Publishes Article on Ganz

On December 26, the Springfield Republican published a feature article on the DIORAMA emergency management software system being perfected by Professor Aura Ganz of the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department. Ganz has been awarded a four-year, $1.6-million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue her research on her computerized disaster-management response system. Ganz says the system is designed to organize chaotic, mass-casualty, disaster scenes, such as airliner, bus, and train wrecks, and cut the evacuation time of survivors in half. For the past several years, Ganz has been developing her DIORAMA I system, funded with the help of a $400,000 exploratory NIH grant.

This latest grant will fund DIORAMA II, the next generation of her system. It is designed to rapidly map out the exact locations of the most severely injured victims at a disaster scene, as identified by a first-response triage team, and allow ambulance crews to find and evacuate critical cases first.

The Republican article follows:

By Diane Lederman, The Republican

Aura Ganz wants her engineering talents to save lives.

And a four-year $1.6-million grant from the National Institutes of Health will help her do just that.

The University of Massachusetts electrical and computer engineering professor has developed a system called DIORAMA I - Dynamic Information Collection and Resource Tracking System for Disaster Management. It can show who is injured and how severely at a disaster site and evacuate them at a 50 percent faster rate than current practice.

The grant money will allow her to produce the hardware and test it in myriad locations with larger trials in a project called DIORAMA II.

At a disaster site, there's often chaos as first responders move in to locate the injured. Now, typically, they mark the injured with cards colored to show the severity of injury, but then those who will treat those people have to locate them. “It’s very slow,” Ganz said.

Her system uses a marking card with a computer chip. That provides both the rescue workers on the ground and the rescue commander with a map of where each victim is, she said.

The chip will also let a responder find a victim using a smart phone.

She said the system reduced the evacuation and treatment time by 50 percent in the 10 or so trials that were run with a $400,000 exploratory NIH grant. She said health agency didn’t want to fund development “unless we could show the benefits.”

With the information, the system commander will know the extent and severity of injuries and “know how many resources to request.”

She said this system would work in any mass disaster from tornadoes to gas explosions or airplane and train crashes -- anywhere there are numerous casualties.

She will be working the Harvard Medical Disaster Team, federal and state emergency management agencies, emergency services in Boston and the state Department of Public Health.

“It’s very exciting. I’ve been working very hard for (funding.)” She said, “it’s exciting to make a difference to save lives.” She said that is also the mission of the NIH.

Ganz, who lives in Hadley, said she is collaborating with a biostatistician and engineer who is working on the hardware. They have to make the chip smaller and less expensive to produce. She will also work with two graduate students.

“It’s nice to get to collaborate with people in different disciplines.”

Although the research funds the project over four years, she’s hoping to see the system at work sooner. (January 2013)