Electronic Magnetic Field Camp 2016


EMF Camp happened this year. In my humble opinion, it was the best so far. EMF Is basically the UK's nerdy burning man (sort of). It's a bit more science focused than a pure security conference like CCC or the like, and as a consequence, seems to attract a wider range of people who, nevertheless, all geeks. I'm part of the team that runs the First Aid at the event, so I end up being there for a large part of the setup and the strikedown, as well as the main event.

first aid tent

Setting up a festival can be a real pain, but this year seemed much more slick. I arrived in the middle of a down-pour and had to setup my tent in the rain! Never-the-less the following morning I helped set to with putting up fencing. I've lifted many Heras fence feet in my time but never as many as I did that morning. As the on-call first aider I generally carry one of the kits with me and a radio so I can be called at any-time. I can get involved with all of the heavy lifting until the first aid tent arrives.

Our tent is basically a square pointy tent about 9m square. We divide it into two using tarpaulin to have a private area for patients. This is where we keep the beds, and private table for people who need privacy. The main entrance area has three tables, one for the gear, one for the crew and one for the front desk where we sign patients in. We have a stack of chairs around the place for people to sit. Outside the tent, we have two hay bales for people to chill-out on, in the sun.

We run the first-aid team basically like Festival Medical Services run their first aid points. We have two teams of two people, one of which will always be in the first aid tent from 10:00 till 02:00. Overnight, two of the first aiders are available 'on-call'. Each pair has a radio and a mobile phone between them. Thanks to DavidC, we have a single phone number that calls both of the mobiles at once. This is the same number as printed in the attendee's handbook. When the phone goes off, both first aiders meet at the tent and then treat the patient they find. We always work in pairs as there's a lot to do in addition to treating the patient; recording details on the ePRF and performing crowd control are two of the things we find ourselves doing a lot.

lumos nodes

Our gear is already on site when I arrive and the AED arrives via a courier a couple of days later. My partner arrives a little later bringing all the drugs we need and a thermometer which I forgot to buy. One of our Health Care Professionals (HCP) brings a blood pressure cuff too which is always handy for extra diagnostics. Between us, we have about 3 pulse-oximeters so we are well set for observations. Our first aid team works to the First Aid at Work standard, as defined by the First Aid Manual, but some of our crew are trained to a slighly higher level, so can take observations are are non-invasive.

Training wise, we have a mixture of people which makes for a really interesting and effective team. We have First Aid at Work people as a minimum (the longer 3 day HSE certified course), St John Ambulance people, FREC Responders and Community First Responders. In addition, we have an 'on-call' HCP who is usually a nurse or a GP. In camps past, we had our HCP as a member of the 4 person team. This year we decided to have them on call as it was a better use of their time and skills and also meant that the rest of the crew who aren't professionals get to have some experience and practice their skills. It seemed to work quite well indeed.

EMF Camp is quite tame when it comes to injuries really, at least in comparison to some other festivals or other scenarios members of our team have dealt with. One thing that is new this year is the use of a drugs fridge. Some of the attendees have medication that requires chilling so we basically hold one of the shelves on our fridge just for medicines. In addition, we have some attendees who make regular use of our tent for their medicine routine. As well as first aid, we provide basic welfare; suncream being the most popular item this year (the British Summer finally arrived). We also provide basic medicines such as anti-histamines, savlon, ibuprofen and the like. We are very careful to stress we can't actually suggest a person take any of these items, but some careful wording and plenty of advice sheets from NHS Choices get us around that particular problem.


The last night (and the following morning) are always the busiest times for us. I think it's because people give the festival a big last push before they return home. This year was no different but fortunately, there were no super serious problems (though I didn't get much sleep that night). The strike-down always worries me because people are tired and just want to go home. When playing with large plant and heavy loads, finger trapping and broken toes are always a fear I have. Fortunately, the strike-down was problem free - another star for the volunteers!

We record every patient we see and keep tallies of things like advice, suncream or medications taken. Our records have to be kept for at least 7 years; they live backed up and doubly encrypted at two separate sites. I basically perform the role of a Caldicott Guardian for our patient records. In the intervening time between camps I'll be improving our ePRF system, particularly the back-office part. This year we repurposed an old iMac to read and backup our ePRFs, as well as providing a place to check things like directions to the nearest A&E or walk-in centre.

camp site

EMF sort of doesn't end for many of these on the orga-team. For my part, I have a few cases to write up for my own training, backing up all the spreadsheets we have for things like gear, rotas and such. Feedback from the attendees and the crew needs to be read and replied to and so on. This year, the feedback has been great and I think we did the best we've ever done. The first aid volunteers have been great - they all showed up and worked really hard. The team is made up of a variety of individuals all with different backgrounds and skills but all are really nerdy and that plays well at a festival with other nerds. It means the crew can hold conversations easier with patients and each other, and are trusted a little more as a result.

Myself and my partner volunteer with FMS, which helps keep our skills up. The next festival (and the last for the year) will be Reading at the end of this month. But I'm already looking forward to EMF2018.