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Safety is given top priority at offshore wind farms. Using a telemedical emergency concept, personnel are being taught to provide additional medical help under the supervision of doctors.
Telemedical emergency concept

Providing medical help at sea in emergencies

In medical emergencies, maintenance teams on offshore wind turbines are initially very much on their own. Since wind turbines at high sea are difficult to reach and the weather is unpredictable, emergency services need considerable time before they arrive. In order not to lose any valuable time, Berlin’s Charité University Hospital has now developed a telemedical emergency concept in conjunction with the EWE energy supply company as part of the "SOS – Sea and Offshore Safety" project.

The maintenance teams working on the large offshore wind turbines, which are separated from each other by expanses of water, mostly have to rely on themselves. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the wind turbines are situated more than 30 kilometres off the coast and the weather is unpredictable. In the event of emergencies and accidents, this results in long transport times for rescue personnel and patients.
The aim of the ‘SOS – Sea and Offshore Safety’ project is to develop a telemedical emergency treatment concept for the personnel on offshore wind turbines. This concept intends to make sensible use of the time taken until the rescue personnel and emergency doctors arrive. The Telemedicine Centre and the Department of Anaesthesiology and Operative Intensive Care Medicine at Berlin’s Charité Hospital are developing and testing the new concept together with the EWE power company. In this regard they are assessing the extent to which telemedicine can be used to treat seriously ill or injured workers from both a technical and medical point of view.

The SOS project is combining a medical technology-based approach with audio and visual transmission. Although reliable devices are available with defibrillators and critical care monitors for implementing the medical technology, with a weight of around 12 kilogrammes they are too heavy and too complexly designed. “Therefore, with our cooperation partners, we want to develop a compact, robust and lightweight device, including monitor, which can be carried by the helpers,” explains Dr Martin Schultz, coordinator of the SOS project at the Charité Hospital.
Although the devices tested for the audio and video transmission function quite well, there are still shortcomings in terms of the image quality, for example with the autofocus that still works too slowly in poor light conditions. “Ideally the helpers should be able to carry a transmission unit that combines the audio and video equipment within a single device,” says Schultz in explaining the technical concept.

Field test verifies systems and processes

In order to prove the practical suitability and user capability, in August first-aiders tested medical measures with a sensor-based training dummy, for example in order to simulate the attachment of a 12-channel electrocardiograph (ECG). A doctor gave further instructions as to where the ECG sensors should be attached to the breast.
In addition to the medical technology, in the middle of September the researchers also put the audio and video communication to the test at the alpha ventus wind farm. Further tests are scheduled to take place at the Riffgart wind farm as soon as the cable connection has been made. In addition, a field test for the automatic transmission of the data, including the use of the server system, is planned for the beginning of 2014.

The project is being carried out by the Telemedicine Centre Charité (TMCC) together with the Department of Anaesthesiology and Operative Intensive Care Medicine at the Charité University Hospital Berlin and the EWE power supply company. The German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety is contributing around 940,000 euros to fund the SOS project until March 2014.



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