HDSCS logo, ©1984 ARES logo®

Hospital Disaster Support Communications System

- - - - - - -


- - - - - - -

The Hospital Disaster Support Communications System (HDSCS) is a group of Amateur Radio ("ham") operators who have volunteered to provide backup internal and external communications for critical medical facilities in Orange County, California whenever normal communications are interrupted for any reason.  In 2018, HDSCS celebrated its 38th year of service.

HDSCS is Disbanding!

Effective October 14, 2018, the Hospital Disaster Support Communications System of Orange County, California is disbanded. In her letter of resignation, the HDSCS founder and leader writes:

It has been thirty-nine years since I found myself, radio-in-hand at the switchboard of the hospital where I worked, asking the operators what had happened to the phone system.  During the next two hours, after my call on a local repeater, several operators with various levels of preparation showed up at my hospital to help.  Within a year, after an inquiry by the hospital disaster chairperson and an invitation to participate during one of the hospital's required disaster drills, I had helped to forge a specialty ARES group, the Hospital Disaster Support Communications System.

Over the next 38 years, as many as 36 hospitals would ask HDSCS to be included in their disaster plans and there would be over 120 times that our volunteer group would be activated to support hospitals with communications failures.  The members who responded in all those instances did so on a voluntary basis and provided their own equipment, often at inconvenient times. There were lots of drills and standby operations along the way, too.

But now it is time to step down and make a clean break.  Keeping the group operational, at the level that is necessary and desirable, has become unrealistic for me due to medical issues that I have been dealing with for several years.  While HDSCS members have been dedicated and capable, none has the available time, the requisite experience and the continuing interest to manage a group of Amateur Radio operators under the HDSCS model that has been developed and refined over the years.  Therefore, a succession plan has proven to be impossible and there is no gradual way to discontinue HDSCS activity.  So at this time, HDSCS is disbanded.

It has been an honor to lead such an incredible group of dedicated volunteer Amateur Radio Operators and to have my hobby become part of my county hospitals' disaster plans.

Even though HDSCS may not continue, our friendships can.  I look forward to seeing and talking to you in our other Amateur Radio activities.  I encourage all of you to offer your time and skills to public service groups or events that may have the need.

April Moell WA6OPS

Current HDSCS members should check the MEMBERS ONLY section of this Web site for information about disposition of identification cards and return of county-owned blue vests.

We believe that the HDSCS model under the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) is the most effective way to perform hospital support.  Those interested in continuing Amateur Radio service to Orange County medical facilities should contact Bob Turner W6RHK, the Section Emergency Coordinator for the Orange Section of the American Radio Relay League (w6rhk@yahoo.com).

Any other inquiries about the disbanding of HDSCS should be directed to former Assistant Coordinator Joe Moell K0OV (k0ov@hdscs.org).

To the hospital disaster planners and Emergency Medical Services Agency personnel who have worked with us to plan and provide Amateur Radio backup communications, please accept our deep appreciation.

Key Aspects of the HDSCS Model

HDSCS stats Cadre of Amateur Radio (AR) operators

Written agreements for support

Rapid and robust alerting system

Proven communications plan

Ongoing training program

Documents provided to each member, including:

Point system to monitor member activity and reward the most active members

Regular liaison with other emergency preparedness groups in OC (e.g. RACES)

More about HDSCS and Amateur Radio Support to Hospitals

Supporting Hospitals with Amateur Radio, Your First Steps -- The right way for ham radio groups to get started in supporting their local hospitals

We Got Letters -- Thanks from hospitals we have served and from public officials

How Often Do Hospitals Need Hams, Anyway? -- Our vital statistics and a quiz for you

News Notes -- News of our most recent activities, drills, and emergency activations

"CODE BLUE: Hams and Hospital Emergencies" -- A classic article about HDSCS by Joe Moell

Frequently Asked Questions From Amateur Radio Operators -- April Moell answers inquiries from hams around the country about how best to support their local hospitals

When the Shaking Starts, It's Too Late to Plan -- Equipment and personal preparedness for emergency communications

Amateur Radio Support for Hospitals, A 38-Year Legacy -- How it Began and Early Lessons Learned

Analog Voice, It's Still Best -- A PDF white paper explaining why HDSCS didn't adopt digital and image modes

RF Interference in Hospitals -- Our common-sense approach to avoiding it

Patient Privacy, HIPAA, and Amateur Radio Communications -- HDSCS and medical confidentiality

Annual Orientation and Review Workshop -- A day of learning and V.I.P. recognition

North Pole Network -- An annual holiday activity of HDSCS

Some Activation Reports (Also see Activations 2015 - 2018)

Photo pages

Site Search -- Search the HDSCS and North Pole Network sites by word, name, callsign, or phrase

Commendation from OC Supervisors
In addition to kudos from our supported hospitals and Orange County Emergency Medical Services, HDSCS and its members have received recognition from legislators at the county, state and national level.

Any Browser is OK!This page updated 22 October 2018

Entire site Copyright ©1998-2018 Joseph and April Moell.  Republication of any content without prior permission is prohibited.
Hospital Disaster Communication logo ©1984. All rights reserved.
ARES® is a registered Service Mark of the American Radio Relay League, used by permission.