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Data tracking helps keep U.S. Open spectators safe

PITTSBURGH, Penn. A mobile medical training center outfitted to treat everything from bee stings to heart attacks is helping change how the United States Golf Association keeps spectators safe.

Hidden behind green fencing, the blue, 46-foot-long trailer has been collecting data at the end of each day from the three medical tents spaced through Oakmont Country Club for the U.S. Open, said Linda Reiger, an emergency medical services specialist at UPMC St. Margaret hospital near Aspinwall.

A bank of computers in a black locker inside the trailer crunches the numbers. "We track for the busiest times, the busiest medical tents, the most frequent problems," said Reiger.

It's the first time anyone has analyzed medical response at a U.S. Open, Reiger said.

From Monday through Thursday, the latest data available, more than 200 medical calls were made to assist spectators for problems ranging from allergies to fainting, according to Pete Bevacqua, the managing director of the U.S. Open Championships.

"So far, they've been relatively minor. We're keeping our fingers crossed," said Bevacqua.

The busiest time for medics is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Reiger said.

Because of the data, they've added two more bike medics, emergency responders who weave through crowds of golf fans on mountain bikes to get to injured spectators.

The $300,000 Simulation Medical and Resource Training -- or SMART -- unit was custom-built for UPMC last year, said Dale Mitchell, an EMS specialist with UPMC who spent a year helping design the trailer. It's made almost entirely of aluminum, so it can be pulled by a large pickup truck rather than a semi.

With cameras in both rooms inside the trailer hooked up to flat-screen monitors inside and outside the vehicle, it usually is used for training first responders, Mitchell said. Its diesel generator provides enough power for three days, Mitchell said.

Even the bright white walls have a purpose, he said: They reflect light better, so the trailer uses less power in an emergency.

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