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Protect your team by tracking blast exposure

The Blast Gauge System provides critical information about blast overpressure to help reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury

The following is paid content sponsored by BlackBox Biometrics Inc.  
By Police1 BrandFocus Staff 

Explosive breaching is a critical tool for tactical operations, but the effects of blast overpressure can also be dangerous. While the effects are not well understood, recent studies show that cumulative blast exposure, even to low-level blasts, poses an occupational hazard to soldiers, SWAT officers and explosive breachers.

BlackBox Biometrics offers a tool that measures blast exposure to help an operator decide when medical intervention is needed. The wearable Blast Gauge System provides immediate data to guide triage and aid in reducing the risk of blast-related injuries, particularly traumatic brain injury.

The Blast Gauge System is a set of three sensors that measure and log exposure to explosive blasts. By measuring tactical officers’ exposure to blasts while training, trainers and chiefs can make sure they are taking steps to reduce the risk of injury and disability.
The Blast Gauge System is a set of three sensors that measure and log exposure to explosive blasts. By measuring tactical officers’ exposure to blasts while training, trainers and chiefs can make sure they are taking steps to reduce the risk of injury and disability. (Photo/BlackBox Biometrics)

“Those blast pressure gauges really help us understand what it is we’re doing, not just to the target we’re breaching but also to the environment itself,” said Avner Klein, an experienced SWAT officer and trainer who owns and operates Forced Entry Tactical Training. “If there is a risky or elevated exposure, then wearing one of these is definitely going to help identify it.”

Why you need to measure blast exposure  
Recent studies have found long-term neurological deficits in soldiers and tactical officers who have been exposed to blasts. These include disruption of the central nervous system and the default mode network, which is important for functional connectivity, planning and memory. Breakdown of the default mode network has been associated with schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as bipolar disorder and PTSD.

“Emerging research suggests that repetitive blast exposure may accelerate the brain aging process, causing subtle changes that lead to cognitive decline,” said Dr. Jeff Bazarian, physician and professor of emergency medicine, physical medicine & rehabilitation and neurology at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “Wearable sensors that measure and record blast exposure are a critical tool for developing effective strategies to limit overall blast exposure and prevent these adverse effects.”

The Blast Gauge System provides a tool to address this occupational hazard. By measuring tactical officers’ exposure to blasts while training, trainers and chiefs can make sure they are taking steps to protect their officers and reduce the risk of injury and disability.

What is the Blast Gauge System?  
The Blast Gauge System is a set of three small sensors worn on the helmet, chest and shoulder that logs exposure to explosive blasts. The sensors can also be attached to structures like vehicles and buildings to verify minimum safe distances for stacking up during training.

Each gauge weighs less than an ounce and takes up less than one cubic inch of space. A bungee attachment makes it easy to attach to vests, helmets and other gear. Each set of three gauges covers one operator for about two years at a cost of less than $500, including software, and the devices come with a one-year warranty. The gauges accurately detect overpressures between 0.5 and 110 pounds per square inch (psi).

The closer an operator is to a blast, the higher the overpressure he or she will absorb. For example, a flashbang in a small room can register 9-10 psi, and 5 psi is enough to rupture an eardrum.

“We’ve been amazed at how many things we didn’t expect create dangerous levels of overpressure, flashbangs being a big one,” said Scott Featherman, a former Army breaching and explosives expert and business development manager for BlackBox Biometrics, which developed and manufactures the Blast Gauge. “When an officer or a soldier puts an explosive charge on a door to blow it open right before they go in, that generates huge amounts of overpressure if you’re standing too close, which they often are.”

How does the Blast Gauge System work?  
Pressing a recessed button on each gauge triggers a green, yellow or red status LED that provides an instant exposure alert. While it’s configurable by the user, typically green indicates an exposure of 4 psi or less. Yellow indicates a moderate event of 4-16 psi, and red indicates a severe event of 16 psi or above. Both provide a timely warning that the operator may need to seek treatment. These lights indicate exposure only and are not a diagnosis of injury.

When activated, each set of gauges is identified with an ID number, usually an officer’s badge number. The gauge then stores that user’s information for the life of the device, and any data downloaded will include the ID. Medical personnel can later review and analyze the data to track each user’s exposure and make informed treatment decisions.

The new Wireless Blast Gauge System provides wireless download to Apple or Android devices for easy interpretation, monitoring and tracking of the data with a user-friendly mobile application. The gauges can be repurposed at any time using the mobile app, which will reset the lights. The devices also provide a micro-USB connection for users who prefer a physical download.

Routine exposure to blast shockwaves during training and operations poses a significant occupational hazard for tactical officers and breachers. Even low-level blast exposure can be harmful, and it’s important to monitor officers’ exposure. A tool like the Blast Gauge System identifies those who may need medical treatment in order to prevent further injury or disability. It also enables assessments of tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) to reduce exposures to the maximum extent practical.

For more information on blast sensors and traumatic brain injury, contact BlackBox Biometrics Inc.

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