About two years ago I was taking a class on the topic of integrating EMS with police for response to active shooter incidents. The class taught the Rescue Task Force model for this integration. If you’re not familiar with it, the concept of a Rescue Task Force calls for police officers and EMS providers to work as a team in a designated warm zone to treat and remove victims. The police officers on the team provide security for the EMS providers who are charged with treating and moving victims. A primary function of the EMS providers is to rapidly package injured victims who can’t walk and drag them to safety.
I was entirely on board with all of the procedures we were being taught as well as with the several new pieces of equipment we were being introduced to – right up until we needed to begin packaging the injured victims. We had a few products available to us to use for this task. None were easy for one person to use. Some were overly bulky and difficult to carry. Others barely provided an advantage over a bare handed drag, and still others required some real skill to get a patient secured to. While I was able to practice a variety of victim removal techniques, none of them were great options in my mind. For such a critical situation I thought, there must be something better.
After this class I spent significant time researching patient moving devices in search of better alternatives to what we had in class. I came to realize that what I was looking for just didn’t exist. I put together a list of attributes an “ideal” patient evacuation device would embody for this active shooter environment:
- It must be easy to carry. Ideally, one (1) person should be able to carry several.
- It must be compact and light weight.
- It must be capable of being dragged across almost any surface.
- It must be capable of being carried from any point around the device.
- It can’t be orientation-specific. If the device is deployed upside down in the dark, it must still be usable.
- Getting the victim onto the device has to be easy. Lifting the patient must not be necessary.
- The patient must be quickly and easily secured to the device.
- It must be deployable by one (1) rescuer.
- It must be extremely durable and easy to maintain.
This seemed like a tall order. It certainly rules out all of our most common patient moving devices, like backboards and stokes baskets. Soft devices like the variety of collapsible litters or handled tarps don’t meet the mark either. I had my work cut out for me.
I shared this need for something better with my brother and we got to work on some designs. After several prototypes, the attributes of the first version of the Rapid Patient Mover (RPM) began to take shape. We settled on heavy ballistic weave nylon for the base material because of its high degree of abrasion and tear resistance. We embedded plastic plates in between layers of the nylon, initially to provide some structure. We quickly discovered that with proper sizing and placement, these plates not only protected the patient and gave the unit some form, but also facilitated the single rescuer deployment by allowing the RPM to “Z fold” and open up flat against the ground when placed under a victim. To this concept we added rows of handles that double as patient securing strap attachment points on both sides of the device and added two large straps through the middle for dragging from either end. Over the course of several months we refined our prototypes and considered every detail before applying for a patent on our final version.
Our Rapid Patient Mover (RPM) is the only patient evacuation device on the market that meets all of the criteria listed above. Although it was born out of a need for a better evacuation tool for active shooter response, it has since proven itself as a go-to device for several difficult patient moving scenarios. RPM's have found a niche in every day EMS responses, in hospital and healthcare facility evacuations, for mass casualty preparedness, and several other environments.
Only when we ask ourselves, "How can we do better?" do we open the door to innovation and the positive contributions to our communities that follow.
About the author: Josh Beaulieu, BS, EMTP, co-founder of B2 Products LLC, has been a licensed practicing paramedic for 20 years and currently leads EMS for a small city fire department in CT.