Emergency Response Technology

Byron Piatt
University of New Mexico
Rio Rancho Café Scientifique


This Cool Café was written by Adult Mentor Hali Willis



The most recent guest at Rio Rancho Café Scientifique was Byron Piatt. Byron is the Emergency Manager at UNM and the Commander of the NM-1 Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT). He began his talk by sharing photos, videos and stories of different disasters he has responded to both in the US and abroad throughout his career. These included hurricanes Katrina and Maria and many more. He taught us how to make the decisions that first responders have to make when responding to a mass-casualty event like a giant storm or a large vehicle crash. We learned that first responders use a color-coded system to identify people that are in immediate need of medical attention and those that are in less dire situations, and we learned how to assess an individual’s medical needs in a matter of seconds. Byron also shared with us his unconventional path to his career. He holds degrees in finance and managed a Walmart store for a time before developing an interest in emergency medicine when his son became very ill and required a lot of specialized medical attention. He was inspired by the nurses and doctors that he observed providing such quality care and pursued emergency medicine shortly after. Byron also shared resources for those who are interested in pursuing a career in or just learning more about emergency medicine. He talked about the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program which is an emergency response training program and encouraged the café attendees to participate in their training program.

Hands on Activity

Before the café, Byron and the Teen Leaders taped up descriptions of different scenarios around the room. Each scenario described a different individual with different medical needs. Some examples included: an elderly male with a rapid heartbeat and trouble breathing and a young woman with gunshot wounds to the upper arm and abdomen. Students that attended the café rotated around the room in teams of 3 and had to come to a consensus on which color triage tag to give the individual. Black tags indicate a person is dead or dying, red tags indicate someone has life-threatening injuries and is in need of immediate medical attention, yellow tags mark someone who needs medical attention but has non-life-threatening injuries, and green tags mark someone with only minor non-life threatening injuries. In many of these scenarios, the condition of the individual described did not fit obviously into one category, and required group members to discuss the situation with each other. After each group had finished each scenario, we talked through them as a large group and Byron revealed the correct triage tag color for each.