C³M visits Dutch Red Cross during the “Four Days Marches” in Nijmegen

On July 20th, the hottest day this year up to now, three PhD students – Laura Hinsche, Roberto Rocha and Roelof van den Berg – of the Department Information Systems and Supply Chain Management of the University Münster and the C3M took a closer look at the processes of the Dutch Red Cross during the four day Marches of Nijmegen, the Netherlands.

Each year over 40.000 people from all over the world come to Nijmegen to walk distances with a minimum of 30 kilometres for four days – every day. The event celebrated its 100th establishment on July 19th- 22nd 2016 – and 50.000 walkers participated. As a special this time, the walkers could walk distances up to 55 kilometres. For such an outstanding event also the medical care has to be organized. As in the previous years, the Dutch Red Cross took over the responsibility to treat injured people along the route as well as at the finishing line.

After a very informative presentation about the Four Days Marches and Red Cross Society, the participants were guided through the provisional constructed headquarter which was located in a theatre close to the starting and finishing line. Every department had its own small, more or less closed corners in which they operated. Due to the open “dining room”, which was set at the entrance hall, the atmosphere was quite busy at all times. Though provisional, the Red Cross organized all relevant tasks very professionally. For example, a designated bed in the gender-separated sleeping halls was given to every volunteer, ensuring the right person was woken up by the “wake-up-call”-team. Furthermore, the serving of meals ran throughout the whole day in an organized process as some of the volunteers had to work nightshifts since a part of the walkers already starts at 3am.

Due to the status as PhD students from an Information System department, a deeper insight of the software processes was granted. Here, the structured way of the Dutch Red Cross could be observed as well. The volunteers at the information system field department were able to picturize how many walkers waited at each treatment point and how long the estimated waiting time would be. This was done using a scanner method: After scanning the individual barcode of the walker’s bracelet, a waiting number was printed out automatically. Because of privacy regulations, the Red Cross did not get to know other information then the already received treatment which was stored before. In establishing such a system, the amount of helpers can be adapted easily to avoid a bottleneck effect or long waiting times in any treatment centre. Also, the volunteers at the finish line knew how many people were expected to come. The first aid volunteer in charge scans the barcode of the printed piece of paper and matches it with the bracelet barcode and the needed treatment. So that at the next stop the first aid providers would know which treatment is needed. In using the scanning method no walker could cheat or change their waiting number in the queue. However, extraordinary injuries were separated from the queuing system and seen by professional doctors and nurses who also volunteer their time for the Red Cross.

Next, all the participants went to the area of action. When walking to the treatment point at the finishing line, the incredible organisational amount became obvious. Passing the long queuing line, the Dutch Red Cross enabled their visitors the insight of a treatment point. The enormous tent accommodated approximately 70 treatment beds for smaller wounds, such as blisters - all of them occupied. Though busy, no signs of stress or rush could be discovered within the volunteers. The hot weather in combination with the different smells of feet might be deemed unpleasant, but the team of the Red Cross performed professionally. A special zone was reserved for serious injuries such as broken legs or arms. This area was separated from the “blister part”. In that special zone specialist doctors treated patients within walled off places. Moreover, an extra ambulance access was considered.

In walking on, an insight into the command centre was given. Shortly before the visit, the whole command centre had a shut down due to a (real) power outage. However, within 15 minutes the whole system was stabilized and worked properly. Additionally, it was explained that the team was prepared for any kind of unexpected incidents. In those occasions the members just could take the laptops used and reopen a command centre quickly at another spot.

Generally speaking, the team of the Dutch Red Cross, is very experienced and professional in organising and carrying out the medical care for the Four Day March in Nijmegen. And although they are very well equipped in terms of IT solutions, they look forward to work together on research and innovation in Information Systems.