One year I had the privilege of moderating Brennan and Bruno "Unplugged" at the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC).
I remember someone from the audience at an FDIC Big Room Session asked the late, great Tom Brennan, former editor in chief of Fire Engineering, about search and rescue techniques-specifically referring to which lifting technique he preferred when carrying a victim out of a building. Brennan looked at Chief (Ret.) Alan Brunacini, Phoenix (AZ) Fire Department, with that "What do you think" look and said something like, " I don't know, I think in the heat of the battle you just grab them and go and hope whatever you're holding onto (skin, clothes, or an arm) doesn't come off!" It's a graphic word picture, but the tongue-in-cheek comment was based on the reality of this job.
The MegaMover measures 40 by 80 inches and is made from
nonwoven, latex-free nylon. This provides a fluid barrier for
protection. Heavy duty reinforced nylon straps are set in a grid to
provide strength and support for the patient. Fourteen handles
evenly spaced are part of the grid system to provide a working
strength of 1, 000 pounds with a maximum breaking strength of
1, 500 pounds, yet the entire unit only weighs one pound. (Photos
When you think about it, whether we're talking about firefighting, technical rescues, motor vehicle accidents, or emergency medical services (EMS), a lot of our job involves moving a person from point A to point B-from a hazardous area to an area of safety. Since the traditional fireman's carry, tools and techniques have been developed to make this task easier. As emergency medicine evolved, a whole new emphasis was placed on spinal stabilization during extrication procedures, which led to the development of specialized spinal stabilizing devices. But tools and ideas don't have to be complicated to work. One case in point is the MegaMover®.
Enhancing an Old Idea
The MegaMover is based on the old blanket drag rescue technique. Then someone thought, "You know what this blanket needs? Handles!" After a few blankets ripped and patients dropped, someone else thought, "You know, this blanket needs to be made of something stronger than cotton." And, so it went. Although firefighters were still using large, heavy canvas tarps for this evolution, the idea was seized and perfected by Graham Medical, a subsidiary of the Little Rapids Corporation in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
The MegaMover is a portable patient transport unit used to transport, transfer, or rescue patients from areas inaccessible to stretchers and for transferring a patient from a gurney to a bed. It could be considered a lightweight tarp with handles. This 40- x 80-inch nonwoven, latex-free, nylon-constructed tarp provides a fluid barrier to protect personnel, equipment, chairs, and mattresses from blood and other bodily fluids. Additional heavy duty reinforced nylon straps are laid out in a vertical and horizontal grid, which gives it the strength to withstand 1, 000 pounds. The actual weight capacity is 1, 500 pounds, which gives the MegaMover an almost 2:1 safety factor, yet this compact unit weighs only one pound. The support grid incorporates 14 reinforced nylon handles, which are evenly spaced around the tarp.
There are various models of the MegaMover. In the Seattle (WA) Fire Department (SFD), we use the disposable basic 1500 model, named for the weight capacity of 1, 500 pounds. The MegaMoverPlus has built-in pockets to accommodate standard backboards for spinal and neck injury transports, and the newest model is the MegaMover with PowerGrips™. The PowerGrips model pads the nylon handles with soft thick rubber for added comfort and durability. Depending on the model, they are packaged in eight to 10 units per case.
Even though the MegaMover is an EMS patient transport unit, it
can also be used to rescue a down firefighter during RIT
operations. With a breaking strength of 1, 500 pounds, it can
easily handle the weight of a soaking wet, gargantuan firefighter
with all his gear on.
The SFD has been using the MegaMover for about six years. Because these units are compact and lightweight, they have become the tool of choice in moving patients up and down stairs. Obviously if they need spinal immobilization, other precautions are taken. The stair chairs are only carried on the ambulances and medic units, so we have to wait for their arrival if we decide to use a chair. To expedite patient transport, we'll often opt for the MegaMover. It's fast, safe, and comfortable for the patient. Stretchers and gurneys can be dangerous when trying to get a bariatric patient up or down stairs. Since the MegaMover wraps around the patient, it's easier to get more hands around the unit to help out when moving an obese patient to a level area for transfer to the gurney. We often get the elderly patients who have fallen in the bathroom, or other areas of the house, and simply need assistance back into bed-a good application for the MegaMover. In fact, it is so lightweight and compact when folded, we often bring it in with the EMS equipment whether we need it or not so we don't have to make an extra trip back to the apparatus.