Johns Hopkins develops emergency preparedness apps

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University developed three new software programs meant to help hospitals model and prepare for natural and man-made emergencies, the university said on Friday.

Scientists with the Johns Hopkins National Center for the Study of Preparedness and Catastrophic Event Response, also known as PACER, developed the web-based applications EMCAPS 2.0, FluCast and Surge.

EMCAPS, which stands for electronic mass casualty assessment and planning scenarios, models 11 different scenarios classified as disasters by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The scenarios include a pandemic, pneumonic plague, a nuclear device explosion, an explosion on public transportation, a toxic gas release, nerve gas, mustard gas, food contamination, an open-air explosion, an improvised explosive device and an anthrax attack. EMCAPS estimates the number and types of injuries caused by such disasters, allowing hospitals to improve preparedness.

FluCast looks at the flu and attempts to estimate how many new cases a certain hospital can anticipate seeing in a given week. The software gathers the data it uses for its estimations from Google Flu Trends and the hospital's historical data. The developers of FluCast said they hope it will allow hospitals plan ahead for an increased number of flu cases.

Surge is an application for hospitals, pediatrics wards and other care units to help guide them through a public emergency or other events that cause a massive influx of new patients. Surge is able to simulate bed needs, how to move patients efficiently to open rooms and how to plan discharges to ensure the hospitals can best allocate their resources.

PACER developed the software with support from the DHS Science & Technology Directorate Office of University Programs. The applications were featured in the DHS's University Centers of Excellence Innovation Showcase on February 11 in Washington.