At first, it looks like a normal shipping container. But push a button, and a minute-and-a-half later, out unfolds an operating room, 20 feet long and 8 feet wide."It looks like a cicada coming out," an Army engineer says of the prototype Future Medical Shelter System.The Army's current mobile operating room comes in two containers, and it's a pain in the butt to set up. "You've got to manually unfold the existing container, which takes a fair amount of time, and then you've got to physically unload all of the stuff from one ISO container into one like this one," offers an Army program manager.The FMSS shelter is powered by a 24 volt battery standard for most military vehicles and offers protection against biological and chemical agents, unlike its predecessors. The Army's prototype was built by Y12 National Security Company out of Oak Ride, Tennessee. But two other companies have designed the mobile operating rooms, including St. Johnsbury, Vermont's Mobile Medical International. Inside its version of the operating-room-in-a-box, there are "two surgical stations or four patient care stations, integrated medical gas, power and LED lighting systems," and integrated environmental controls.Folks at the Army's Telemedi cine and Advance Technology Research Center are now testing out the FMSS, with an eye towards toughening it up against the elements. But for now, there's no cash to build a new shelter. "Congress initially funded the program, and no additional money has been appropriated for the second prototype," says the Armed Forced Press Service.
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