Army Refines App to Prevent Cold-Weather Injuries

Army Refines App to Prevent Cold-Weather Injuries

Soldiers on skis
Photo by: U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Patrick Sullivan

In line with the Army’s efforts to expand its presence and ability to operate in cold-weather regions, the service has developed an app for soldiers that helps prevent injuries such as frostbite and hypothermia. 

“Soldiers working in cold weather environments risk sustaining cold-weather injuries such as frostbite and hypothermia,” according to the Army’s 2022 Health of the Force report. “Preventing these injuries is critical since Soldiers often train and operate in austere conditions; this is especially true as the Arctic becomes more important to our national security.”

To reduce these injuries, the Army Research Institute of Environmental Medicine has developed an app called the Cold Weather Ensemble Decision Aid, or CoWEDA. 

The app allows soldiers to input environmental conditions, work activities and clothing to calculate their risk of cold-weather injury. It can also be used to determine how much clothing insulation is needed depending on conditions and the mission, the report says. 

Reducing cold-weather injuries is key to bolstering soldiers’ health and enhancing mission readiness. “From 2013 to 2021, [soldiers experienced] 382 frostbite injuries, 1,059 non-freezing cold injury casualties, and 409 cases of hypothermia,” according to the report. “These injuries cause ~5 lost duty days per Soldier at a total yearly cost of [about] $4.5 million, reduce unit readiness and can increase chances of mission failure.” 

Researchers are working on upgrades for the app that will enable it to perform even more in-depth cold weather injury prevention, “including complex interactions such as impacts of wetted clothing” and “accurately [predicting] frostbite risk in discrete areas of the body,” according to the report. 

Researchers hope the app will be a useful tool for Army leaders as they balance safety and rigorous training in cold climates. “The [app] is a preventive medicine tool built to provide leadership, clothing developers, and mission planners a quantifiable means to identify the risk of cold injuries so training and other activities can be conducted rigorously, but safely, in extreme environments,” according to the report. 

Read the full report here.