March 30, 2009

PSMA offers all-terrain emergency medical assistance

Getting emergency medical teams quickly to the scene of a disaster like a plane crash deep in forest terrain is no easy task. For this reason, French Guiana has worked with CNES and Thales Alenia Space to develop the PSMA emergency medical aid unit. The new unit were deployed for its latest test run on Thursday 26 March.
23 March 2009

Deployment in less than 1 hour

8.30. An alert is received after a plane crash 180 km from Cayenne in French Guiana, deep in the Amazon forest.

9.50. A helicopter airlifts the PSMA* emergency medical aid unit with communications and medical equipment to the crash scene.

10.40. The unit is deployed and the crash victims attended to.

This is just a simulation. But this trial deployment, designed to support emergency medical response teams at the request of emergency services in Cayenne and conducted in cooperation with the authorities last May, could well be a real-life disaster facing teams one day in the future.

After some adaptations to withstand the high temperatures and humidity, the PSMA unit is now virtually operational.

“The officials from the prefecture who took part in the trial on 22 May were really impressed with how quickly the unit deployed and how well the communications equipment worked,” says Nathalie Ribeiro, in charge of CNES’s telemedicine and healthcare development programme.

“They were especially impressed by the live videoconference link-up between the disaster scene, the command post and the hospital, and by the medical triage software.”

A compact, communicating container

Restoring communications is crucial when responding to a disaster and getting aid to victims.

That’s why the PSMA unit has a dish antenna. “Generally speaking, after a disaster all the usual communications channels are down and networks are saturated ...

in such cases, satellites are the only way to restore communications
,” explains Nathalie Ribeiro.

Another strong point of the PSMA unit is that is very compact. The 4-cubic-metre, 700-kg cube can be airlifted anywhere by helicopter.

With 80% of its territory covered by equatorial forest that is hard to penetrate on land or by river, French Guiana is a country where the PSMA unit will prove very valuable. “This modular version spreads the load and enables equipment to be easily transported to field teams,” says Nathalie Ribeiro.

En Guyane, un territoire recouvert à 80 % par la forêt équatoriale où il est difficile de se déplacer par voie terrestre ou fluviale, le PSMA a un vrai rôle à jouer. « Cette version modulable, précise Nathalie Ribeiro, permet de diviser la charge et de transporter le matériel au plus près du sinistre. »

* Poste de Secours Médical Avancé

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