The HDSCS Certified Hospital Communicator Program

Amateur Radio groups that support the Red Cross, the National Weather Service (SKYWARN) and state/local governments (RACES and ACS) are usually organized and managed by the agencies they serve. The supported agency determines when and how the ham team is activated. It sets the standards and conditions for membership and training. It is not uncommon for agency staff members to hold leadership roles in the Amateur Radio support group.

Early on, HDSCS organizers realized that this agency-managed model would not work well for supporting dozens of private hospitals in a metropolitan county. Instead, HDSCS chose a self-managed model under ARRL's Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES®). Our leadership team is highly knowledgeable about hospitals and their special communications needs, but it does not include managers of any hospitals. This gives us the freedom to serve all of our client hospitals equally and eliminates any "middlemen" in our call-out procedures. It also presents us with the responsibility to determine and implement our own standards for membership and training.

HDSCS has established the Certified Hospital Communicator (CHC) program to recognize members who have demonstrated their experience and competence in providing communications support to Orange County medical facilities. CHC status is not automatic. It requires members to prepare themselves for emergency service, to participate regularly in group activities and to support hospitals in drills and standby operations, so they will be ready for small and large-scale disasters.

John Walker shows go-kitCertified Hospital Communicators receive a special photo ID card by arrangement with Orange County Emergency Medical Services Agency (OC-EMSA). They are considered first for team leader assignments during hospital emergencies and standby operations, as well as for special positions such as communicators at drill sites, the Orange County Emergency Operations Center and OC-EMSA facilities. They are encouraged to be mentors to new members as these newcomers learn the special aspects of communications in hospitals.

The experience requirement for CHC includes two years of HDSCS membership, at least one in-hospital drill per year, at least one emergency or standby operation, attendance at the annual day-long training workshop, Net Control duty for the weekly HDSCS net, and a minimum number of participation points.

Though all HDSCS members are expected to assemble and maintain "go kits" so that they can quickly set up and operate at any hospital location, there are additional expectations for CHCs. This includes portable equipment for three Amateur Radio bands (2m, 1.25m and 70cm), self-contained with an attached gain antenna and also able to be connected to the hospital's rooftop antenna coax. The kit must include non-AC power for at least six hours operation with the radio(s) in a 2-watt or greater setting. The kits must include other essential items such as personal medications, flashlights and snack foods. They must also have a data set to help them travel quickly to any hospital, connect to any hospital antenna, and contact any HDSCS member. This includes frequency lists, message forms, equipment "crib sheets" and so forth.

Candidates for CHC must have completed ICS/NIMS on-line courses IS-100, IS-200, IS-700 and IS-800. Then they must pass the HDSCS written examination on specific Orange County hospital communications issues, medical terminology, and the Hospital Incident Command System (HICS). There is also a practical examination on programming transceivers and establishing on-air communications.

CHC test and certification sessions are scheduled regularly as needed to accommodate candidates.

In the Photo:   At an in-service presentation to Disaster Preparedness Committee members at South Coast Medical Center, long-time HDSCS member John Walker AC7GK demonstrates his go-kit to Lisa Vandenbergh, the hospital's Disaster Coordinator. John was one of the first to achieve Certified Hospital Communicator status.

©2008, 2010 Joseph and April Moell. Republication without permission is prohibited.
"Hospital Disaster Support Communications System" (HDSCS) and "Certified Hospital Communicator" (CHC) are proprietary to this organization.
ARES® is a registered Service Mark of the American Radio Relay League, used by permission.

HDSCS Members:  LOG IN for the details of CHC certification requirements and information about upcoming qualification test sessions.

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This page updated 22 February 2010