NLM often undertakes investigations into new ways to promote better understanding of its resources and databases. At times, this has required adapting both the amount and the presentation of information for different audiences. An example of such an adaptation is WISER® (Wireless Information System for Emergency Responders) <http://wiser.nlm.nih.gov
>;. WISER is designed to serve as an easy-to-use information system for emergency responders (ERs) at a hazardous materials (HAZMAT) scene.14
Emergency responders and HAZMAT units routinely face a host of decisions that must be made quickly and accurately to save lives and to minimize the impact on the natural environment and physical property. Accurate information about the hazardous substance(s), the emergency resources available, and the surrounding environmental conditions is critical in such situations. WISER can serve as an aid in decision making. It provides a wide range of information on over 400 hazardous substances, including help in identifying unknown chemicals and their physical characteristics (properties), human health and emergency treatment information, and containment and suppression guidance. The information is formatted for mobile devices (e.g., Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs), tablets, and field laptops) and is also available on the Web.
WISER’s content is extracted from NLM’s Hazardous Substances Data Bank (HSDB®) and includes information from many of the resources that emergency responders currently use separately (in book or CD format) when on-site at an incident, such as the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Emergency Response Guidebook
the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health’s (NIOSH) Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards
and Micromedix’s Tomes17
and POISINDEX System
Approximately 420 of HSDB’s 5,000 hazardous substances are included in WISER. Their selection was based on toxicity and likelihood of exposure. If the substance has been identified in the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR)’s Medical Management Guidelines <http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/mhmi/mmg.html
>; or identified on multiple government lists of hazardous substances, it is included in WISER. Future versions of WISER will allow customization of this core set, and the ability to delete and/or add substances to the database based on specific needs and environment.
WISER’s interface differs slightly to fit the information needs of three “user roles”: First Responder, Emergency Medical Services, and HAZMAT Specialist. When the chemical is known, the user can select it from a list or enter its name, Chemical Abstracts Services Registry (CAS) number, or DOT number. If the substance is unknown, observed properties (e.g., odor, color, form) and symptoms can be selected from lists (see ). WISER searches its database for chemical substances that have the selected characteristic; as more information about the substance is provided, the number of suggested chemicals decreases. Users can click on each substance to get more information, or remove substances from their list. To further assist in identification, the substances can also be sorted by physical properties (e.g., state, pH, specific gravity, vapor density).
In addition, the complete contents of the Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG) 2004 <http://hazmat.dot.gov/pubs/erg/gydebook.htm
>; is integrated within WISER, allowing the user to search for guide page and protective distance information by name, placards, rail cars, and road trailers. Access to the supporting documentation in the ERG’s white pages is also provided. Mass exposure to radiologic substances presents a unique challenge to the entire response effort, including first responders. WISER recently added twenty-nine radioisotopes and radioisotope-specific data to its substance list (see ). New tools include an onset-of-vomiting dose estimator, patient triage flow charts, and reference documentation.