A toxic cloud, generated by a fire developed on board of a cargo ship outside the port of Palermo, moving towards the Kalsa district of the capital of Sicily was the core scenario for testing preparedness and response of health services in the event of major crises, using the IMPRESS mobile application.

In the context of the EU-funded FP7 Security project IMPRESS: “Improving Preparedness and Response of Health Services in Major Crises” (No. 608078), the coordinator of which is the Research and Innovation Dept. of INTRASOFT International, the first IMPRESS real-life pilot was successfully conducted in Palermo, Italy on 7 June 2016, in the framework of a large-scale civil protection multi-agency exercise, locally organized by the National Research Council of Italy in cooperation with the Italian Civil Protection.

How it works

Handheld mobile devices, running the IMPRESS mobile application communicating with the Incident Management and DSS tools at the distributed operational centers, were used to collect field and patient data and feed decision support tools for prioritizing the patients’ triage list and select the proper hospital and route to send the ambulances with the victims, as well as optimize usage of available resources (ambulances, beds). All activity and assets along the whole emergency timeline from the burning ship till the hospitals ED were continuously monitored and displayed to the involved actors using the IMPRESS system capabilities.

All operations in combination with the IMPRESS system response were followed by an extended list of international evaluators (4), ethics experts (3) and observers (15), positioned at various key places (on board a ship to follow the rescue at sea and then the treatment and dispatch at the Advanced Medical posts, or at Command and Control centers of 118, Prefecture and the Hospital), who collected data and provided feedback concerning the performance of the system to the realistic requirements of the scenario.

The scenario

The health emergency exercise scenario involved a fire on-board a cargo ship moored in front of the Palermo harbor, in the sea, right in front of the Palermo promenade. The fire could not be extinguished and the captain and crew should abandon ship. Due to Northeasterly winds the plume of toxic substances released in the fire reached the densely populated Kalsa District. Several victims were reported, which needed medical attention and transportation to nearby hospitals; essentially triggering a mass casualty emergency operation.

The 1st version of the IMPRESS system has been integrated into several command posts and mobile assets and was used as a health emergency and inter-agency cooperative platform between several actors involved in the management of the health emergency.

Multiple participating organisations

The exercise organization requested a commitment of 21 public organizations, 624 people, 11 ground vehicles, 20 ambulances, 17 ships and boats and 5 airborne means. Six (6) operational centers, equipped with IMPRESS incident management and DSS tools, have been installed in the facilities of the Italian Coast Guard, the Advance Medical Post created in Puntone dock at the Port area of Palermo (AMP A), the Regional Ambulance Dispatch Center (118), the Crisis Unit of the Prefecture of Palermo, the Emergency Department of the Hospital Buccheri La Ferla and the Civil Protection Headquarter (SORIS), all of them exchanging incident, patient, notification and dispatch data in real time and coordinating their response through the 1st integrated IMPRESS system.