SSC-Natick Press ReleaseU.S. Army Soldier Systems
Public Affairs Office
Contact: Public Affairs Office
Date: July 23, 2007
USARIEM researchers test WPSM capabilities during training exercises
Members of the CST-WMD often have to perform tasks in tight
spaces. (Photo courtesy of USARIEM research staff.) |
Click for Larger Photo
NATICK, Mass. -- Recently researchers from the U.S. Army Research
Institute of Environmental Medicine (USARIEM) got a chance to test
out one of the products they have been working on in an exercise
The Warfighter Physiological Status Monitor (WPSM) lets an observer
view heart rate, respiration and core temperature from a remote
location. Although intended for medical personnel to monitor the
critical vital signs of Warfighters on the battlefield or in
training, it also has other uses.
In June, USARIEM worked with the National Guard 1st Civil Support
Team Weapons of Mass Destruction (CST-WMD) out of Wellesley, Mass.,
during two training exercises. The mission of the CST-WMD is to
support civilian authorities in the event of a WMD incident. Their
tasks include advising local authorities and assisting with
Nationally, the CST-WMD has been looking for a medical monitoring
telemetry system for a couple of years, said Mark Buller,
physiologist, USARIEM. Currently when the members of the CST- WMD
are wearing chemical/biological personal protective equipment (PPE),
they have to work with a buddy system and only have external
physical signs to work with (e.g., their partner begins to stagger
as they walk or is unresponsive to verbal commands).
"They wanted to ID a system that would let them monitor core
temperature, heart rate and ECG traits," said Buller. We have been
working on Warfighter Physiological Status Monitoring (WPSM) systems
for more than 10 years and thought we had a system mature enough to
be a good fit, he continued. The prototype of the system met most of
A partnership was created between the two organizations (USARIEM and
the 1st CST-WMD Team) and USARIEM first traveled to a training
exercise in North Truro, Mass., to get a better understanding of the
Next they traveled to North Brookfield, Mass., and outfitted members
of the CST-WMD team performing first responder type work with the
WPSM system during actual training exercises.
"We want potential users of the WPSM system to try it out in a real
environment to see if it will meet their needs," said Bill Tharion,
principal investigator, USARIEM. The first exercise in North
Brookfield involved members of the CST-WMD performing first
responder type work in their PPE in enclosed spaces, such as in a
tight sewer system and septic tanks.
Six individuals were equipped with the WPSM system with a strap that
goes over their chest and shoulders. An electronics unit that snaps
into the chest strap that gathers and processes the physiological
information obtained from the strap sensors was also worn.
"This system differs from the chest straps available on the sports
market," Tharion emphasized. "Although those systems also have a
chest band which sends your heart rate information back to a watch,
the WPSM system provides a lot more information and also provides
more reliable information. The WPSM was a system developed to detect
vital signs," he said.
"The [WPSM] can even tell you if a device is broken or not on,"
Buller added. During the exercise, a physician's assistant from the
1st CST-WMD observed the information provided by the WPSM system,
such as heart rate and respiration.
"The system worked great," said Buller. "We were able to monitor the
individuals reliably with no equipment failure and were able to get
The second exercise was on a fire-fighters training site with large
containers that had restricted entry through only a manhole. The
set-up for testing WPSM system was the same as the first exercise,
but the day was warmer with temperatures in the containers reaching
between 80 and 90 degrees F.
"This gave us a good opportunity to see how the item works in the
field," Tharion said. "It also gave us the chance to ask if the item
meets this group's needs and if not, what else they would like to
The WPSM system was a useful tool for the CST-WMD. The medic is able
to see where a problem might arise, such as heat stress, and send
out a new individual to cover for the one who might be starting to
be in danger said Buller.
Tharion stressed that the WPSM is a device that would supplement a
normal level of care, not replace it.
For the future, USARIEM is working on algorithms based on vital
signs, such as core temperature, and types of exercise being done to
predict work/rest cycles. "These will let us predict schedules with
relative reliability," said Tharion.
Regarding working with the 1st CST-WMD, both Buller and
Tharion thought it was a success. They have been great to work
with, said Tharion. Its truly become a partnership.