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DIORAMA II Promises to Save Many Lives at Disaster Scenes

Professor Aura Ganz of the Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) Department has been awarded a $1.6-million, four-year grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to continue the research on her life-saving, disaster-management solution known as DIORAMA II. Ganz’s solution is supported by the leadership of the disaster management community. This electronic computer system can quickly organize chaotic, mass-casualty, disaster scenes, such as airliner, bus, and train wrecks, and cut the evacuation time of survivors in half. DIORAMA II works both in daylight and nighttime while overcoming physical obstacles.

DIORAMA is an acronym for "Dynamic Information Collection and Resource Tracking System for Disaster Management.”

Over the past few years, Ganz has developed her DIORAMA I system, designed to coordinate the initial response in a mass-casualty incident and improve the management of resources, with the help of a $400,000 R21 exploratory NIH grant. DIORAMA II represents the next generation of her system. It will rapidly map out the exact locations of the most severely injured victims at a disaster scene, as identified by the first-response triage team, so ambulance personnel can find and evacuate critical cases first.

“The first problem is the issue of immediate response,” says Ganz. “What is happening in the critical minutes just after a disaster occurs, when every second is crucial to whether or not victims survive? This is the most challenging issue in emergency management of a mass-casualty disaster, and this is the problem NIH is funding me to solve. The aim of the project is to streamline the triage process and significantly reduce the time it takes to rescue victims.”

DIORAMA II will provide a real-time, scalable, decision-support framework built on rapid information collection and accurate resource tracking, and it will speed the locating of victims, diagnosing of the most severely injured casualties, and management of response teams in mass-casualty incidents.

The term “diorama” usually refers to a replica or scale model of a landscape or some other scene, such as a battle. In this case, DIORAMA is the map of a disaster scene on the computer screen of the incident commander in charge of coordinating emergency response personnel. Among many other uses, the DIORAMA map pinpoints the locations of all the medics and victims and thereby allows the commander to organize the whole emergency response operation very quickly.

Effectively handling a mass-casualty incident is the greatest test a community's emergency medical system can face. Disasters disrupt the existing infrastructure and hamper the efficiency of search-and-rescue units. In disaster medicine triage, determining the number and location of victims, relative to the location of available resources, is crucial for maximizing and hastening rescue efforts.

The primary measurable outcomes of this system will save many lives. DIORAMA II will cut the evacuation time of victims from the disaster site by 50 percent, compared to the standard evacuation systems used now. It also promises 100 percent evacuation efficiency of all triaged victims and 100 percent geographical verification of the locations of all triaged victims upon first responder triage.

Beyond those key benefits, DIORAMA II will enable rescue personnel to treat the most
critically injured victims first and assign emergency resources to the areas of the disaster in most need. It will also alert hospitals located near the disaster to prepare for the arrival of patients beforehand, yet another lifesaving characteristic of the system.

“There are so many large-scale disasters that happen with buses overturning, trains colliding, multi-car pileups, air crashes,” Ganz explains. “And it is very cumbersome for medical personnel to arrive at a scene filled with chaos and debris and the victims spread all over the place and carry out a fast and effective triage operation to save as many people as possible.” (October 2012)