BACUUM is a two-layer body bag designed specifically for disaster response. In the complex chaos of a disaster involving a large number of human remains, the most important aspect of body management is identification. Bodies can rapidly decompose beyond the point of easy identification, losing critical information in as little as four hours. BACUUM innovates to extend the window of identification and increase the efficiency of body management.
The outer layer of BACUUM is made of PVC sheeting and features two central handles made of nylon webbing for efficient carrying. It is opaque for the privacy and dignity of the human remains. The structure of the outer bag folds to create a compact volume that can still open fully to be easily loaded.
The inner layer of PA/PE medium barrier film is vacuum sealed via a one-way umbrella valve to minimize the exposure of the body to air and slow its decay, better preserving it for future identification. The teeth on the airtight zipper are wrapped with a waterproof TPU film. When the zipper closes, the film is tightly squeezed to achieve a water- and air-tight seal. The vacuum sealing process adds rigidity to the body, further aiding the carrying process.
The target user for BACUUM is emergency response teams who specialize in disaster response. The elongated hexagonal form of the inner and outer layers mean that a body can be more easily loaded and unloaded, minimizing the need to awkwardly pull and shift the edges of the bag to tuck the body in or take the body out. While some added time is needed in the management process to employ a vacuum and seal the inner layer, it is estimated that time would still be saved thanks to BACUUM being easier to carry by fewer responders. The BACUUM bag makes each rescue and recovery trip faster and easier, which means that each individual responder can contribute more to the response effort overall.
The user can share in the care and respect for the body inherent in the BACUUM system, knowing that they are making the best effort possible to offer human dignity to the deceased and the possibility and hope of quick identification for the family of the deceased.
BACUUM's unique features reduce the labor needed to carry the body bag, increase efficiency in the management process, preserve information that can aid in identification, and improve the efficiency of the disaster response effort.
The BACUUM body bag offers several improvements on the industry standard. The current standard body bag is a single-layer, flexible rectangular envelope, typically with a zipper down the center and up to six handles on the corners and sides. Due to the placement of the zipper, when the top is zipped open to expose the interior and receive a body, considerable length of the bag is lost. This small loading area can make it awkward to load the bag. BACUUM's inner and outer layers are shaped like elongated hexagons, allowing a minimum of accessible area loss when unzipped. This makes them easier to load and unload.
The standard body bag features a nylon zipper that is not air-tight. Each time the bag is opened, the remains are further exposed to air, speeding up decomposition. BACUUM vacuum seals the remains to protect them from oxygen and to lengthen the preservation window. The outer layer can be readily opened and closed without compromising the integrity of the remains sealed in the inner layer.
Bodies commonly slide around and contort within the open area of the standard bag, making it awkward to carry for fewer than three to six people. The vacuum sealing feature on BACUUM's inner layer makes the body rigid such that it is much easier to carry. This means that fewer people are required to carry the bag when using BACUUM. Two central handles on the outer layer wrap around the bag to create optional side handles, allowing two people to carry the bag if desired while at the same time accommodating additional carriers as needed.
While BACUUM uses some of the same materials as the standard body bag, it uses those materials more thoughtfully and more efficiently to offer greater functionatliy to the user. The outer bag's classic blue PVC sheeting and black nylon webbing handles echo an iconic body bag design, signaling the product category and use to the user as well as the reliability and trustworthiness of the product within this category despite the novel silhouette. The final form arose directly from explorations to discover efficient ways to access the volume required to hold a body without compromising that volume. The elongated hexagonal form selected for the final design was inspired by origami folding explorations to find an efficient use of material that would also offer a large zipper opening. Force analysis was conducted to determine the style and placement of the central handles as well as the criss-crossing structure of webbing that connects the handles.
BACUUM's inner layer features a one-way rubber umbrella valve that is embedded in a nylon fabric. The nylon is a transitional material between the PA/PE medium barrier film and the rubber valve. These materials, along with the rubberized airtight zipper, work together to facilitate the vacuum sealing process and maintain an air and water-tight seal.
In the case of both the inner and the outer layer, the material use is efficient in that it uses a minimal area to create a capacious volume, and it is efficient in that it is designed to be cut from a single piece of material, much like collapsible cardboard packaging.
Emergency responders are always working against the clock, perpetually at a disadvantage against an overwhelming disaster. The number of responders and their efficiency impacts the number of lives saved and the number of bodies recovered. Struggling with inefficient tools like the standard industry body bag slows down even the best response teams. Using BACUUM, instead of three to six responders carrying each body bag, often just two are needed, freeing up one to four responders with every trip.
Even when response teams do their work well, the body bag itself fails to preserve important identity information, and undermines their efforts. The process of identification after a disaster is difficult in the best case scenarios, made more difficult still when the body suffers too much decomposition for simple visual identification. The effort and expense of more invasive identification techniques can be avoided by better preserving the remains to facilitate rapid identification.
In a disaster response, identification cannot be the main priority. Saving lives and preserving the remains of the dead in a discreet, culturally sensitive manner for later identification is paramount. Leveraging the manpower of the emergency responders is also critical, as speed can correlate directly with lives saved. The efficiency of the response team, no matter their skill, is hindered by poor tools. Responders loading, carrying, and unloading bodies more quickly and efficiently thanks to BACUUM's easy loading and carrying features make more trips, recover more bodies, and potentially save more lives.