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 in times of disaster or emergencies. Such situations include:
- When a hospital 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 hospitals 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 of hospitals.
- In a widespread disaster such as a major earthquake or large-scale flooding, when hospitals 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 get the needed assistance.
We support over thirty medical facilities in Orange County and we are looking
for licensed Amateur Radio operators with certain qualities.
- 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 2-meter 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. HDSCS frequently uses the 224 and 445 Mhz ham bands for internal communications and as alternates for county-wide communications. Signals on these 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 hospitals. 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 hospitals rapidly when normal routes are impaired.
- 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 thoroughly familiar with 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.
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
HDSCS has no dues or membership fees.
Membership has its responsibilities. Members must stay informed of the
status of the hospitals and HDSCS, and know current practices and procedures. This is
accomplished in part through weekly net participation and Net Control practice, as well as
attending our training and orientation meetings held throughout the year.
Participation in the individual-hospital and county-wide drills is also important in
developing skills and increasing familiarity with hospitals.
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 hospital patients. You will 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 25 October 2007