We're Looking for a Few Good
HamsThe Orange County Hospital Disaster Support Communications System (HDSCS), a specialty group of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service, is
looking for volunteer Amateur Radio operators who wish to make a unique contribution to
their communities in time of crisis.
HDSCS stands ready, around the clock, to provide supplemental communications to
hospitals and other
medical facilities in times of disaster or emergencies. Such situations include:
- When a medical facility loses its phone system (internal, external, or both) for any reason. This happens two to three times a year on average in Orange County, due to component failures, electrical surges, or physical damage to lines caused by backhoes, etc.
- When the phone systems of medical facilities are overwhelmed due to an area-wide emergency. An example is the Laguna Firestorm of 1993, when communications at four Orange County hospitals were severely overstressed. Mass casualty incidents (MCIs), such as the Metrolink train crash of 2002, also overload the phone systems.
- In a widespread disaster such as a major earthquake or large-scale flooding, when medical facilities need to communicate with each other and outside agencies and when the commercial phone system is unavailable or unreliable. For instance, the Landers/Big Bear earthquakes affected many hospitals. One had failure of both commercial power and its own emergency generators. Since HDSCS members automatically activate and respond whenever shaking occurs, they got there quickly and were able to summon the needed assistance.
We support over thirty medical facilities in Orange County and we are looking
for licensed Amateur Radio operators with certain qualities and capabilities.
- VHF License And Equipment. Members must have a current Amateur Radio license of Technician class or higher. They must own Amateur Radio gear capable of providing basic communications from a hospital. At minimum, this is a hand-held 144/440 MHz transceiver with battery support for up to six hours. Additionally, it is helpful to have a higher power portable setup which can be operated at the site with emergency power. Signals on UHF bands propagate more effectively within large hospital buildings, compared to two meters.
- Interest, Commitment, and Responsiveness. Prospective members should be interested in public service and be willing to make a commitment to the support of medical facilities. They should have the necessary mobility to respond to an emergency situation whenever and wherever it might occur in Orange County. Members must be able to follow street maps and be resourceful at getting to facilities rapidly when normal routes are impaired. They must also understand that this commitment requires staying current and well prepared.
- Professionalism. Maturity and good judgement are important to HDSCS. Members will be working with medical professionals under situations of stress. A willingness to learn the most important terms used in medical settings is necessary. Operators must be able to make decisions regarding the urgency of their facility's messages compared to other traffic being handled on the radio net. This requires judgement and tact.
- Communications Skills. Members must have basic communications skills and be competent in operating their equipment. It is important to be able to speak clearly, concisely and with brevity during any HDSCS operation. Just as important as speaking skills is having the patience to be a dedicated listener, one who monitors quietly when necessary, yet remains aware of what is happening in the hospital and on the air, ready to handle any incoming messages.
HDSCS has been called out over 120 times for communications failures since 1980. Our participation is a part of formal disaster planning for the County of Orange Emergency Medical Services Agency. We have assembled an outstanding group of committed individuals who are
capable and knowledgeable Amateur Radio operators. We are proud of
our members and have great confidence in them. But we always need
more members, now more than ever because of new regulations that require disaster communications planning for non-acute medical settings.
HDSCS has no dues or membership fees.
Membership has its responsibilities. Members need to stay informed of the
status of the medical facilities and HDSCS, and must know current practices and procedures. This is
accomplished in part through weekly net participation and Net Control practice, as well as by
attending our training and orientation meetings held throughout the year. Participation in the individual-facility and county-wide drills is also important in
developing skills and increasing familiarity.
If you become a member, you can expect to be called out sometime
during the year. It could come at an inconvenient time. It might wake you up.
You might be asked if you can leave work or miss a TV show. When you are
called, it is because you are needed by those who are caring for patients. You could make a difference. The payoff
is that you may have the satisfaction of conveying information that is crucial
to patient care.
If you are interested in becoming part of this team of outstanding,
"professional" communicators, contact April Moell WA6OPS, HDSCS Coordinator, or
one of the Assistant Coordinators. April's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. You
may also check in as a visitor to the HDSCS net, which meets Tuesday evenings
at 7:30 PM on the K6QEH repeater, 146.97(-) MHz, PL 136.5. Visitor check-ins are taken just before the close of the net.
When disaster strikes, have the satisfaction of being ready to be part of the solution.
In the photo: If public service is important to you, as it is to Ken Simpson W6KOS, consider helping hams serve their local hospitals. Join HDSCS if you live in or near Orange County, California. If you live elsewhere, consider forming a similar group in your own area.
Next page is Annual Orientation and Review Workshop -- A day of learning and V.I.P. recognition
Or go back to the HDSCS home page
This page updated 2 March 2018