Published online by Cambridge University Press: 02 January 2014
During disasters and complex emergencies, environmental conditions can adversely affect the performance of point-of-care (POC) testing. Knowledge of these conditions can help device developers and operators understand the significance of temperature and humidity limits necessary for use of POC devices. First responders will benefit from improved performance for on-site decision making.
To create dynamic temperature and humidity profiles that can be used to assess the environmental robustness of POC devices, reagents, and other resources (eg, drugs), and thereby, to improve preparedness.
Surface temperature and humidity data from the National Climatic Data Center (Asheville, North Carolina USA) was obtained, median hourly temperature and humidity were calculated, and then mathematically stretched profiles were created to include extreme highs and lows. Profiles were created for: (1) Banda Aceh, Indonesia at the time of the 2004 Tsunami; (2) New Orleans, Louisiana USA just before and after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in 2005; (3) Springfield, Massachusetts USA for an ambulance call during the month of January 2009; (4) Port-au-Prince, Haiti following the 2010 earthquake; (5) Sendai, Japan for the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami with comparison to the colder month of January 2011; (6) New York, New York USA after Hurricane Sandy made landfall in 2012; and (7) a 24-hour rescue from Hawaii USA to the Marshall Islands. Profiles were validated by randomly selecting 10 days and determining if (1) temperature and humidity points fell inside and (2) daily variations were encompassed. Mean kinetic temperatures (MKT) were also assessed for each profile.
Profiles accurately modeled conditions during emergency and disaster events and enclosed 100% of maximum and minimum temperature and humidity points. Daily variations also were represented well with 88.6% (62/70) of temperature readings and 71.1% (54/70) of relative humidity readings falling within diurnal patterns. Days not represented well primarily had continuously high humidity. Mean kinetic temperature was useful for severity ranking.
Simulating temperature and humidity conditions clearly reveals operational challenges encountered during disasters and emergencies. Understanding of environmental stresses and MKT leads to insights regarding operational robustness necessary for safe and accurate use of POC devices and reagents. Rescue personnel should understand these principles before performing POC testing in adverse environments.
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