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First responder communication in CBRN environments: FIRCOM-CBRN Study

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Jan Schumacher, James Arlidge, Declan Dudley, Jennifer Van Ross, Francesca Garnham, Kate Prior

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)456-458
Number of pages3
Issue number8
Early online date19 Jun 2019
Accepted/In press29 May 2019
E-pub ahead of print19 Jun 2019
Published29 Jul 2019

King's Authors


Introduction: Recent terror attacks and assassinations involving highly toxic chemical weapons have stressed the importance of sufficient respiratory protection of medical first responders and receivers. As full-face respirators cause perceptual-motor impairment, they not only impair vision but also significantly reduce speech intelligibility. The recent introduction of electronic voice projection units (VPUs), attached to a respirator, may improve communication while wearing personal respiratory protection. Objective: To determine the influence of currently used respirators and VPUs on medical communication and speech intelligibility. Methods: 37 trauma anaesthetists carried out an evaluation exercise of six different respirators and VPUs including one control. Participants had to listen to audio clips of a variety of sentences dealing with scenarios of emergency triage and medical history taking. Results: In the questionnaire, operators stated that speech intelligibility of the Avon C50 respirator scored the highest (mean 3.9, ±SD 1.0) and that the Respirex Powered Respiratory Protective Suit (PRPS) NHS-suit scored lowest (1.6, 0.9). Regarding loudness the C50 plus the Avon VPU scored highest (4.1, 0.7), followed by the Draeger FPS-7000-com-plus (3.4, 1.0) and the Respirex PRPS NHS-suit scored lowest (2.3, 0.8). Conclusions: We found that the Avon C50 is the preferred model among the tested respirators. In our model, electronic voice projection modules improved loudness but not speech intelligibility. The Respirex PRPS NHS-suit was rated significantly less favourably in respect of medical communication and speech intelligibility.

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