HATTIESBURG, MS.– One of the biggest challenges medical first responders face in the aftermath of a natural disaster is getting to those in need of medical assistance and treating their injuries in a timely manner.

When EF-4 Tornado ripped through the Hattiesburg area four years ago Dr. Italo Subbarao decided to re-examine medical response times in disaster situations.

He is the lead researcher on the Healthcare Integrated Rescue Operations project…or HiRo.

“We studied that tornado and we realized that folks really did an amazing job in responding, but we asked ourselves a question. Could we do better? Could we do more?” said Italo Subbarao, Senior Associate Dean of the William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine. “Could we use existing technologies at that time to be able to get to people’s homes when there were obstacles in the way?”

The team created a system where the patient will call for assistance and a drone will then be dispatched to their location. It will then drop off the customized HiRo medical kit.

Dr. Guy Paul Cooper is a resident physician at Merit Healthy Wesley Hospital and has been working with Dr. Subbarao on the project. Dr. Cooper says they designed the kit to be as versatile as possible.

“I have a background as a paramedic, so we designed this kit around what an ambulance might typically have,” said Cooper. “[We asked ourselves,] “What can treat the most amount of people?”.”

Patients will also have a pair of glasses that has a built in camera in the kit to show doctors what they are seeing.

“We believe that this technology definitely has the potential to save lives,” said Dr. Subarrao. “We are hopeful and we are targeting our development so that we can be ready for this coming hurricane season.”