How COVID-19 Complicates Hurricane Response Plans


COVID-19 Forces California Nursing Home Evacuation

According to an article by Cheri Mossburg of CNN, the Magnolia Rehabilitation and Skilled Nursing Center in Riverside, California was evacuated after the staff didn’t show up for work.

The nursing home had been hit hard by the coronavirus with at least 34 of 84 patients and five staff members testing positive.

This is not an isolated incident. On March 25, a nursing home in Englewood, New Jersey had to be completely evacuated. With the spread of COVID-19, it is likely that this scenario will be repeated many times.

A nursing home or hospital evacuation usually requires many ambulances and two or more EMTs to staff each. But most emergency medical service departments are already straining to handle the transport of Covid-19 patients on top of their regular medical transports.

One possible solution to this problem is to transport more patients in a single trip. With an AmbuBus Conversion Kit® from First Line Technology, any available school or metro bus can be converted into a multiple patient transport vehicle by two people in about two hours.

Depending on the configuration, an AmbuBus can transport between 12 and 24 patients in a single trip with only three EMTs. That same patient transfer would require up to 24 single passenger ambulances and 48 EMTs.

When a medical transport or evacuation calls for more patients than an ambulance but less than the number that would require an AmbuBus, the new AmbuBus Quick Response Transport (QRT)™ option is the right solution.

Originally designed for military or law enforcement tactical situations where having many ambulances on scene is not practical, a QRT can carry from three to six patients in a single trip. Only two EMTs would be needed to staff the vehicle.

Hospital Surge and Quarantine

The sturdy powder-coated structural steel frames of the AmbuBus can also be set up free-standing in a hospital corridor, cafeteria, or any shelter for additional patient beds, quarantine, or responder sleeping quarters when not needed for transport.

Mortuary Services

The AmbuBus and the QRT are valuable resources for transporting and storing deceased patients.

A freestanding AmbuBus frame can be set up in any refrigerated room, container or vehicle for temporary storage of bodies. The QRT can easily transport up to 6 bodies in a single trip. The QRT frame will easily fit into all 170″ wheelbase Sprinters and Ford Transit Vans 2.

For more information on the AmbuBus Conversion Kit and Quick Response Transport visit:


To read the original article, click here. 




Save a HazMat Team. Send a Drone.

Every minute in a hot zone puts your operators’ lives at risk. But whenever a HazMat incident occurs, the cause of the problem must be found and the threat neutralized. 

Up to now, the only way to find the problem was to don PPE and enter the hot zone. But increasingly, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) or drones, and Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGV) or robots, are being used in HazMat operations for situational awareness and identifying the threat as well as communications during the deployment.

Recently, the Southern Manatee Fire & Rescue HazMat Team deployed a fleet of DJI drones in a HazMat response at an industrial warehouse. DJI, the manufacturer of the drones used in this deployment wrote an excellent case study of this deployment. Their article can be found here.

But sending a drone or robot into a hot zone creates a new problem; decontaminating the unmanned vehicle and the sensitive sensors, optics, and electronics it carries. Traditional wet decon processes usually involved large quantities of liquid at high pressures or the use of corrosive solutions.

To find a way to safely decon unmanned vehicles, FLYMOTION, the a leading reseller of DJI drones in the United States partnered with First Line Technology to develop a Drone Decon Kit (DDK)™.

“As we worked with our customers who are using drones in HazMat operations, they wanted a safe, and efficient way to decontaminate both the drone and the sensors it carries. Working together with First Line Technology, the company that pioneered the Hybrid Decon process, we were able to develop an easy-to-use kit that is rapidly deployable and can neutralize almost any contaminant while protecting all the sensitive equipment and the drone itself.”
Rich Gatanis, FLYMOTION

First Line pioneered the Hybrid Decon™ process which uses a three-part dry decontamination wipe called FiberTect®, which can remove up to 95% of a contaminant. Then the remaining contaminant is sprayed with a small quantity of Dahlgren Decon™,  a non-corrosive decontamination solution developed by the U.S. Navy.

Watch Southern Manatee Fire & Rescue HazMat Team field testing the Drone Decon Kit below: 

For more information or to request a quote on the Drone Decon Kit,  visit 


American Firefighters in Australia Face Unique Challenges

Over 170 American firefighters have been deployed in Australia to assist in combating the country’s worst fire season. In addition to the unfamiliar vegetation, dangerous wildlife, and searing heat; these crews are finding that the enormous scale of these fires, and the vast distances covered, complicate sustained operations.

Operating half a world away from home in the southern hemisphere means that American firefighters face challenges in acclimating to both an altered sleep cycle, and the Australian climate. When the military deploys units overseas, soldiers are typically on lighter duties for a period to enable them to become acclimatized.

However, the American fire crews are often on the fire lines within hours of arriving in Australia. They are operating in a harsh climate fighting fires that burn hotter than many of the fires they face at home. Dangerous heat stress is a constant concern.

In addition, they are operating in areas that may be many miles distant from population centers with hospitals, hotels, and restaurants where they can relax and recover in the limited downtime away from the fireline. This means that they must bring almost everything they need to rehab with them.

There are several innovative technologies that can be deployed to manage heat stress and provide sheltered rehab and sleeping facilities in remote areas.

The U.S. Army developed a ruggedized, portable, heat stress management device that uses forearm immersion in cold water to quickly reduce body temperature and prevent heat stress.

The Immersion Cooling Equipment (ICE) ™ system is available exclusively from First Line Technology can be set up by one person in under two minutes. After assembling the frame, you simply fill the attached basin with cool water and if available, two twenty-pound bags of ice.

The ICE™ system can accommodate up to six users at a time. They simply immerse their hands and forearms into the cold water and walk in place. This helps cool their blood and circulate it throughout their bodies. This forearm immersion method has been proven by testing to reduce a person’s core body temperature by 1.8⁰F (1⁰C), every three to ten minutes.

In the event of a life-threatening case of heat stroke, the ICE System™ allows for full-body immersion of an individual up to six feet in height. The basin can hold a total weight of 600 pounds including water, ice, and the patient.

According to the Korey Stringer Institute, “Exertional heat stroke has had a 100% survival rate when immediate cooling (via cold water immersion or aggressive whole body, cold-water dousing) was initiated within 10 minutes of collapse.”

After heat stress management, having a facility to sit or lie down to rehab, or to use as sleeping quarters is a necessity for firefighters seeking relief from long hours on the fireline.

Equipping any available school or metro bus with an AmbuBus Conversion Kit™ creates a vehicle that can accommodate between 12 and 24 individuals on stretchers for rehab, as sleeping quarters, or for emergency medical transport.

The AmbuBus Conversion Kit™ is shipped in stackable, wooden crates that can be airlifted anywhere in the world. On arrival, the kit can be easily installed by two people in less than two hours without power tools.

A wide range of accessories are available to enhance the functionality of the AmbuBus including a Multiple-Patient Monitoring System (MPMS) ™, which uses Wireless Vital Signs Monitors (WVSM)®, which are compatible with a variety of laptops and mobile devices.

The Mass Casualty Oxygen System (MCOS) ™ is a completely portable oxygen distribution system that mounts to the AmbuBus™ frame and enables delivery of individually metered oxygen for up to nine people simultaneously.

There is also the AmbuPower™ LifeP04 Battery which is a self-contained, man-portable battery and inverter for use with the AmbuBus™ or anywhere that portable power is a necessity. It is silent, exhaust-free, and has 1000Wh true capacity making it the best replacement for noisy, bulky generators. It can be recharged from a solar charger or from any vehicle battery.

For more information on the Immersion Cooling Equipment (ICE)™ system, click here.  visit

For more information on the AmbuBus™ and its related accessories, click here.

To read the original article on U.S. Firefighters in Australia, click here.


Massive 6.4 Earthquake in Puerto Rico Forces Hospital and Nursing Home Evacuations

A series of powerful earthquakes on January 7, 2020 destroyed or damaged many buildings and knocked out power across the island. As a result, at least one hospital and several nursing homes had to be evacuated.

During a major disaster, the pool of available ambulances is usually completely engaged in responding to emergency medical incidents. This makes the problem of safely evacuating large numbers of patients extremely problematical.

In widespread disasters such as the Puerto Rico earthquakes, additional ambulances from mutual aid partners may not be available for days. Even if some ambulances are available, they are typically designed to handle one or two patients per trip. This ties up both the vehicles and a significant number of EMTs.

A solution to this problem is to have one or more permanently equipped AmbuBus Conversion Kits installed in a school or metro bus. An AmbuBus can typically handle 12 supine patients and is flexible enough to accommodate, a mix of supine, seated, or wheelchair-bound patients.

An AmbuBus can also serve as a highly functional mobile triage unit. It can be equipped with an AmbuPower self-contained battery and inverter which replaces the need for a generator. This is extremely handy in situations like Puerto Rico when there are widespread power outages.

A Multiple Patient Monitoring System (MPMS) can be used with any portable computer and can capture up to 4.5 hours of patient data wirelessly for 12 or more patients.

The Mass Casualty Oxygen System (MCOS6) is a completely portable oxygen distribution that mounts to the AmbuBus frame. It enables delivery of individually metered oxygen for up to six people.

MCI Blocks which are a modular storage, transport, and deployment system that are color-coded to triage standards for easy identification. First Line Technology can pre-fill them with your desired contents to simplify triage and emergency medical treatment.

After the multiple patient transport phase of the disaster response, the AmbuBus frame kit can quickly and easily be removed from the bus and set up free-standing in a safe facility for patient or responder sleeping quarters.

Additional AmbuBus kits can be stored in or near a hospital and quickly set up in areas such as hallways or cafeterias to accommodate a surge in patients.

An AmbuBus equipped properly can greatly simplify medical evacuations and mass casualty medical response.

Freestanding AmbuBus kits can be set up in airport terminals, hangars, or even on the tarmac to serve as staging areas for large scale medical air transport operations.

For more information on the AmbuBus and optional accessories and equipment, click here.

To read the original article, click here.


America Has Two Drug Epidemics

While fentanyl and other synthetic opioids are getting massive amounts of attention from policy makers, law enforcement, and the public; methamphetamine use is surging in parts of the U.S., particularly the West.

As reported by April Dembrosky of KQED, “Across the country, overdose deaths involving meth more than quadrupled from 2011 to 2017. Admissions to treatment facilities for meth are up 17%. Hospitalizations related to meth jumped by about 245% from 2008 to 2015. And throughout the West and Midwest, 70% of local law enforcement agencies say meth is their biggest drug threat.”

While methamphetamine is not as lethal as fentanyl, the death rate for meth has been rising. 47,600 people died of opioid-related overdoses in 2017 compared with 10,333 deaths involving meth. Some of the increase may be caused by meth being contaminated by fentanyl.

On any given day, law enforcement, EMTs, firefighters, and other first responders may encounter small or large quantities of meth, fentanyl, or other drugs that pose a threat to them as well as the public.

Responders should have training in assessing the potential risks based on initial observation of the suspected substances. For example, if there is only a very small quantity of loose powder, responders should don the recommended Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), and test the substance with easy-to-use fentanyl strips.

If responders encounter a larger quantity, they should contact a HazMat team and allow them to test the substance with more sophisticated equipment.

First Line Utilization Academy offers a four-hour course in Synthetic Opioid Safety which provides safety instructions and recommendations based on available test data, decontamination best practices, laboratory data, and lessons learned from the field. Training is conducted on-site at your location.

For more information on First Line Utilization Academy and all the courses they offer, click here

To read the original article, click here.


At Least 1,680 Dams Across the US Pose Potential Risk


There are more than 90,000 dams in the United States. On average, the nation’s dams are over 50 years old.

“A more than two-year investigation has found scores of dams nationwide in even worse condition, and in equally dangerous locations. They loom over homes, businesses, highways or entire communities that could face life-threatening floods if the dams don’t hold.”

A review of federal data and reports obtained under state open records laws identified 1,688 high-hazard dams rated in poor or unsatisfactory condition as of last year in 44 states and Puerto Rico. The actual number is almost certainly higher: Some states declined to provide condition ratings for their dams, claiming exemptions to public record requests. Others simply haven’t rated all their dams due to lack of funding, staffing or authority to do so. Associated Press “At least 1,680 dams across the US pose potential risk” by David A. Leib, Michael Casey, and Michelle Minkoff, November 11, 2019

According to the Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO), the cost to rehabilitate the nation’s federal and non-federal dams would exceed $70 billion. Even if the money was available, over half of the dams in the United States are owned by a private entity.

While the majority of state-regulated dams Emergency Action Plans (EAP), it is unclear how many privately-owned dams have EAPs.

All these factors create a massive problem for emergency managers and disaster response stakeholders. This problem is exacerbated by the frequency of severe weather events that we have experienced in recent years.

According to the ASDSO Incident Database, over 60% of dam failure incidents were triggered by heavy rains, excessive water runoff, or other weather events. There are increasing efforts to monitor excessive ground water levels around dams during storms to identify unsafe conditions.

Emergency response planners should connect with their state dam safety official, the US Corps of Engineers, utilities and other private sector dam owners and operators regularly to ensure they have updated EAPs relating to areas that could be impacted by a dam failure.

In areas where dams are considered at risk during severe weather events, special consideration should be given to evacuating schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and homebound at-risk individuals before conditions reach unsafe levels.

For information on multi-patient evacuation transport, click here.

To read the original article, click here.


11 Treated After Chemical Reaction Causes Problem at Plant in Montgomery, Alabama.

Photo courtesy of

A chemical reaction occurred in a production facility in Montgomery Alabama, causing the building to be evacuated. Montgomery Fire and Rescue treated 11 patients, with 3 being transported to local hospitals for conditions that are considered non-life-threatening.

Montgomery Fire and Rescue Special Ops (HazMat) processed the chemical situation.
Toxic industrial chemical (TICs) incidents are among the most frequent hazards encountered by HazMat teams. There are literally thousands of toxic industrial chemicals and materials used daily in manufacturing and processing facilities.

As a result, most HazMat teams have had to acquire, stock, and learn how to handle a wide variety of limited use decontamination solutions. However, two scientific breakthroughs are making it possible to significantly reduce the number of solutions used in HazMat operations.

The U.S. Navy developed Dahlgren Decon™, a truly effective broad-spectrum decontamination solution that chemically neutralizes or safely removes hundreds of know and emerging threats. These include most:

  • Toxic Industrial Chemicals (TICs)
  • Toxic Industrial Materials (TIMs)
  •  Chemical Warfare Agents (CWAs)
  • Pesticides
  • Synthetic Opioids and other drugs

FiberTect®, is a unique three-layer absorbent wipe which can remove bulk amounts of contaminants quickly and safely.

In a process known as Hybrid Decon™ HazMat operators first blot the contaminant with the FiberTect wipe, then spray the remaining substance with Dahlgren Decon and allow it to sit on the contaminated surface for the recommended dwell time. Finally, the operator removes the neutralized contaminant with a clean portion of the FiberTect wipe.

This Hybrid Decontamination™ process greatly reduces the number of solutions the HazMat team carries, the time required to mix and setup the decontamination solution as well as cleanup after the deployment.

Of course, no decontamination solution is effective against every known and emerging threat but First Line Technology, the manufacturers of both Dahlgren Decon and FiberTect makes it easy to determine if Dahlgren Decon™ will work on the identified threat.

An always available mobile and web-based app, the Decon Field Guide™ enables responders to quickly determine if Dahlgren Decon is effective against the identified contaminant, how to mix Dahlgren Decon and the recommended dwell time.

Because Hybrid Decon is such a new process, the First Line Utilization Academy™ offers both in-house Train-the-Trainer classes, and onsite HazMat team training.

For more information on Hybrid Decon, Dahlgren Decon, FiberTect, the Decon Field Guide, and the First Line Utilization Academy, click here.


How Did We Survive 2019?


Drug Dealer Throws Fentanyl at Police

Alleged Drug Dealer Throws Loose Fentanyl Powder at Police

An alleged drug dealer tossed a handful of deadly fentanyl powder at officers investigating a Bronx drug packaging mill.

As originally reported by Rebecca Rosenburg in the New York Post, members of the New York Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Strike Force burst into an apartment with a search warrant on November 7. They found seven alleged dealers surrounded by a large quantity of heroin and fentanyl packaged into 20,000 single-dose glassine envelopes.

As the officers attempted to secure the apartment, Christian Rojas grabbed a handful of loose powder and flung it at an officer’s face.

“The officer exhibited fentanyl-related symptoms, including nausea and shortness of breath and was treated by emergency responders,” the city’s office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor said in a statement.

Another officer was sickened by the airborne powder and briefly lost consciousness. Two additional officers became ill from inhaling the dangerous substance.

Incidents like this are happening more frequently as the opioid crisis continues to spread. However, most of the risk of being affected by airborne fentanyl can be mitigated by wearing simple and relatively inexpensive personal protective equipment (PPE).

The selection of PPE varies depending on the estimated quantity of fentanyl and whether it is in loose powder form, pills, or liquid. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has established guidelines that are useful in determining the right level of PPE.

For complete NIOSH guidance on Fentanyl safety as well as a selection of kits to simplify preventing accidental exposure to opioids, click here.


Is Evacuation of Vulnerable Citizens Our Achilles Heel?

California Post-Fire Audit Shares Important Lessons

The recent devastating wildfires in California have created a greater awareness of the problem of evacuating vulnerable individuals during fast-changing disaster situations.

A new report from the Auditor of the State of California examined some of the factors that hampered county and state emergency managers in evacuating access and functional needs individuals. While the report focused on three counties as well as the California Office of Emergency Services (CAL OES), the problems cited will be familiar to emergency managers everywhere.

Among the findings of the report were:

  • None of the counties had completed an assessment of their populations to determine the needs that their communities will have during an emergency.
  •  In developing emergency plans, the counties did not involve community representatives of people with a variety of access and functional needs to provide insight.
  •  The counties did not assess the resources needed to assist people with access and functional needs during a natural disaster, such as accessible transportation and shelter resources.

While the report cites these deficiencies, it generally fails to recognize many of the underlying factors that contribute to the problem. It is easy to find fault but much harder to address the resource issues that could improve our response efforts.

Among the underlying causes are:

  • Staffing and Funding – Most emergency management agencies are underfunded and understaffed. Every aspect of our emergency response efforts require enough trained people and enough investment to accomplish the task at hand.
  • Developing and Maintaining Registries – While most OEMs have relatively up-to-date registries of patients in hospitals and nursing homes, maintaining lists of homebound patients and other vulnerable citizens is difficult and time-consuming.
  • Lack of Omnichannel and Multilingual Communications – Many elderly, physically-challenged individuals, and economically disadvantaged people are unable or unwilling to stay informed through TV, radio, and the internet. Even if messages go out on all these channels, they are generally broadcast only in English.
  • Limited Availability of Ambulances –Most ambulances are designed for single patients and require two to three EMTs. Few communities have enough available ambulances to handle both the regular level of medical incidents and surge capacity during a disaster. In addition, the equipment and storage in a typical incident mean they can’t accommodate multiple wheelchairs.
  • Mutual Aid Agreements aren’t much use in a large-scale disaster – Incidents like Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy pointed out the glaring weakness of relying on mutual aid agreements for medical transport assets. When the disaster is so widespread, the partner you are counting on may not have enough assets to handle their own problems.

It has often been said, “Never let a crisis go to waste.” Emergency managers, public health professionals, and first responders should recognize the findings of the California Audit for what they should be; grant and business case justifications.

When a report like this comes out, use the findings as evidence that jurisdictions should invest more funding in staffing, public outreach and multilingual communications, and flexible, multi-patient transport vehicles.
Unless we educate the legislators who fund us, and convince them that more citizens could be saved with adequate staffing and evacuation assets, we will be reading reports like these every year.