Business Education Alliance Creates Rescue Backboard to Protect EMTs

A new Utah startup company has hit a major milestone – the delivery of their first order for a product designed to protect the health of emergency medical technicians (EMTs), firefighters and other first responders.

EZ Lift Rescue Systems delivered its first round of backboard rescue systems to the Sandy Fire Department on Wednesday, Sept. 12, making Sandy the first Utah agency to use the system in the field. The event featured members of the EZ Lift team, Zien Medical Technologies, Granite School District, the BioInnovations Gateway (BiG), the Utah Science Technology and Research initiative (USTAR), and representatives from the media.

“This is more than just a commercial product, this really could save the backs – and the careers – of our rescuers,” said Tim Norris, Training Division Captain for the Sandy Fire Department. “It is also unique in that it was envisioned, designed and manufactured right in here our community.”

Supported by BiG, Utah-based companies Zien Medical Technologies and EZ Lift Rescue Systems, Inc. have developed the EZ Life Rescue System, a reinvention of the traditional rescue backboard to better protect EMTs from back injuries caused by lifting and carrying immobilized patients.

The idea for the new backboard came from Utah emergency room doctor, Robert Heck, who turned to

Zien Medical Technologies for help creating the new product. Zien is housed at BiG, a business incubator funded in part by USTAR. In addition to its incubation services, BiG partners high school students with start-up companies.

“This product would not be going to Sandy before next year in any other manufacturing environment,” said David Robinson, president of EZ Lift Rescue Systems, Inc. “We are a microcosm of what the visionaries behind USTAR set out to accomplish – encouraging innovation, education and small business growth within the state of Utah.”

For more than 50 years, the backboard has remained much the same. However, the increase in the weight of patients and in the number of back injuries to emergency responders influenced the creation of the EZL Lift Rescue System. The result is a high-tech rescue backboard that is much more comfortable for patients and more easily lifted and carried by rescue personnel.

The EZ LIFT Rescue System’s extendable handles allow emergency responders to lift from a safe lifting position just below the knees which dramatically reduces torque on the lower back where most injuries occur. The system also has the same low profile storage characteristics as a traditional backboard but rather than being flat, it incorporates a concave patient support channel that cradles the patient and un-weights and protects the pressure points of the spine.

The Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) Fire and Emergency Medical Service Ergonomics Handbook states, “One of the best ways to reduce lifting injuries is to avoid lifting heavy objects in the lifting danger zones. The critical danger zone, where most back injuries occur, is lifting from a point below the knees.”

Robinson is forecasting sales of 1,050 EZ Lift Rescue Systems by the end of the year and just under 10,000 for 2013. South Davis Metro Fire Agency and Ogden City Fire Department will soon receive their evaluation EZ LIFT Rescue Systems as well as agencies from around the country.

“We are formally launching at the EMS World Expo in New Orleans,” Robinson said. “We will have a 20 x 20 island booth right across from the large host city booth – New Orleans EMS.”

EZ LIFT is planning several unusual activities in the booth not typical to trade show. This will include live demonstrations of why the EZ LIFT Rescue System performs better than any other traditional backboard in the market. “We will have a wide selection of the most popular backboards and allow people to experience the deflection and rigidity of what they now use compared to the EZ LIFT Rescue System,” he said. “In another part of the booth we’ll have real life ergonomics training and a clinical study everyone can participate in where we actually use and EMG to measure lift forces when they lift a traditional backboard compared to EZ LIFT.”

This will allow them to summarize individual results on a Lift Risk Scorecard participants will be able to take with them. These results will also be published in the EMS 1 Journal after the show. “Nobody else in the industry has ever done a head to head comparison or an actual clinical study,” Robinson said.