The Unwired Medic

Teaching EMS providers & other public safety pros about using mobile tech to improve their practice, patient care, continuing education, scene safety, general entertainment, & productivity.

Hazmat detection on your cellphone coming soon!


Sometimes an article comes along that you feel warrants stopping everything to make sure you share it with those who matter to you. Well, you are the ones who matter to me. I’ve got some new app reviews coming up to finish, and my regular 8-5 has me plenty busy too, but all that, I feel, pales in comparison to the importance of this news…

Visit the GSN Magazine article called “Disaster Preparedness 2011: Smart phones enhanced with nanotube hazmat detectors bring a new dimension to preparedness” posted here:

I have many times wondered whether the ambulance I’m sitting in for a 12, 16, or 24 hour shift is polluting my lungs with CO gas and other noxious fumes. Devices like this could make it practical to find out if you are in danger of exposure to toxic gases or to other hazards, like chemical weapons. Honestly, I can’t wait to see this type of device in my hands for a test. I’m hoping the bug that flew by Qualcomm’s ear whispered something that motivates them to send me some devices to test and review so I can share the findings with you. If this stuff truly fits into a cell phone, then point of contact testing will become so much less expensive that ANY responder could afford to have on-site testing and measurements. What a boon for responder safety!

As for the EMT and Paramedic, what about point-of-care testing for CO2 and CO levels by wafting your cellphone in front of your patient’s face? How about being able to test if your patient is intoxicated or in DKA? LEO’s: want to have a device that can give you a preliminary reading on alcohol intoxication? What about on-scene rehab and safety officers? Are you in the cold, warm, or hot zone? Did you walk into a sick person call to find you are now in danger of falling victim to carbon monoxide or radon? Responding near a pool or cleaning supplies (cyanide)? Agricultural responses have you worried about organophosphates or other chemical agents? Mining incidents where you might be around refining chemicals? Imagine a criminal or terrorist setting up a hazard, then tripping the alert themselves by carrying one of these types of phones and getting nabbed before they can implement their dastardly plan. Sounds like America’s Dumbest Criminals material to me – LOL!

The article I found presents the option of the everyday citizen becoming an anonymous reporter of hazards, but even if this doesn’t become a widely-adopted standard on civilian devices, the possibilities for public safety and healthcare are endless!

I am so truly looking forward to where this can take us for preparedness, safety, and response.


  1. I am a county emergency manager and an EMT in a county in SW North Dakota. As you may have heard on the news as of late there is a huge oil boom going on here. I happen to be right in one of those counties in the Bakken development. I cannot stress enough how this would benefit our first responders, from LE to ambulance to fire departments it would be one more tool to ensure safety. I am in Dunn County, and I hope this is something that will become available soon. Please contact me with more information. If you wanted a place to test this come and visit! Thank you, Denise Brew

  2. Donny, I certainly aiacerppte your story and the fact of your committment to the federal fire service, however being a federal firefighter myself for 14 years and then revolving into what is now the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) was a blessing to me and many others.I retired with 14 years federal service and 15 years of MWAA for a total of 29 years, my retirement was still under the old CSRS system. Thanks to then Secretary of transportation Elizabeth Hanford Dole we converted from federal service to a civilian fire service at both Reagan National and Dulles International Airports. This move at both of these airports was a milestone in the right direction for us, as both of these airports under federal control was destroying the airports due to the monies going back into the general federal fund and no monies coming back to the airports for any improvements. Thus, going to an Airport Authority system was the right move for us, as we went from then 72 hours per week to 56 hours per week and a salary increase across the board. This move brought us into a comparable system much like our counterpart municipal fire departments outside the airports. I remember the ole days’ under the federal system with the FLSA issues and long hours of work. The federal fighters were always greatly under rated and under paid and still goes the saga today. I aiacerppte your dedication to duty, having pride and patriotism, but this reaction is also felt in any fire service area whether federal or civilian. As the story also goes with the economy and no federal COLA’s were all in the same boat, good luck to you in the near future! A.L. Hutchinson, Retired Battalion Chief

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