HDSCS News Notes

Recent activities of the Hospital Disaster Support Communications System

Emergency Activations and Alerts

KE6DAN and AD6QF at UCI Medical Center Emergency Activation #124:  HDSCS was activated by pager and telephone at 3:25 AM on March 17, 2017.  All internal and external telephones were down at UCI Medical Center in Orange.  Five HDSCS members responded with the first arriving at 4:30 and setting up his radio equipment in the Hospital Command Center, which had been activated in accordance with HICS procedures.  Fortunately, telephones came up at about 5 AM, but the HCC remained open and HDSCS remained on site until 7 AM as functionality and reliability of the system was determined.  Responding to the hospital were Bob Houghton AD6QF (on right in photo with hospital's Incident Commander), Greg Landers KE6DAN (on left in photo), Joe Moell KØOV, Claudia Whited W6YTD and Jim Whited AI6EZ.  April Moell WA6OPS operated the external base station.

Emergency Activation #123:  At 1:17 PM on December 12, 2016, HDSCS was called via cell phone by the Assistant Director of Security at Anaheim Global Medical Center.  A complete failure had occurred in the hospital's telephone system and communications assistance, both internal and external, was needed.  HDSCS activated four members who immediately set out for the hospital.  First to arrive at about 2 PM was Bob Houghton AD6QF, followed by Paul Broden K6MHD, Dale Petes KI6ANS and Joe Moell KØOV.  They set up in the Command Center, using the hospital's external antenna, and deployed to provide voice communications to critical units within the hospital. They also established an outside link via April Moell WA6OPS at a base station.  Although some phones were up within an hour, the system was not fully functional, so the hospital continued to keep its Command Center activated and to follow Hospital Incident Command procedures.  Shortly after 6 PM, Justin Ennen AI6CI arrived at the hospital as relief for one of the operators.  HDSCS continued to provide backup communications where needed until the system was declared to be stable, an All Clear was declared, a debriefing took place and the Hospital Command Center was deactivated at 7:27 PM.

Saddleback Hospital At 1:13 PM on November 22, 2016, HDSCS Coordinators received an emergency 3-digit page from Saddleback Memorial Hospital in Laguna Hills.  Attempts to call into the hospital were met with rapid busy signals indicating a likely problem with the telephone system.  Using the HDSCS "First Wave" document, which identifies members that are most likely to be available for a particular hospital, two Coordinators began calling those who could activate to the hospital.  Twenty minutes later, as our first responders were heading out and others were preparing, the HDSCS coordinator received word from the hospital's Assistant Disaster Coordinator that the phone system was up and functioning.  She did not yet know why the main trunk lines had failed and was concerned about additional problems.  It was decided she and HDSCS would stay in touch over the next hour to verify all internal and external lines were functional.  Our lead radio operators stayed in "jump team" status, monitoring our frequencies and ready for immediate activation should that be needed.

Huntington Beach Hospital On Thursday, October 1, 2015, a power outage darkened the homes and business of over 22,000 Southern California Edison customers in Huntington Beach and Fountain Valley.  As soon as HDSCS coordinators became aware of the outage, they made calls to hospitals in the areas affected to determine if any phone problems existed.  Both Fountain Valley Hospitals had no problems, but calls to three different numbers at Huntington Beach Hospital produced rapid busy signals.  Following our established protocol, members were activated to this facility to check for a phone outage.  As the first in operator drove into the hospital property, the phone system began to come back on line.  Two other HDSCS operators were called off but continues to monitor the on-air net.  Joe Orrico WB6HRO, the first-in operator, made contact with hospital staff and then stayed on site for 30 minutes to make sure the system functioned under load.

At approximately 8:15 AM on February 3, 2015, HDSCS member Cheryl Simpson KD6MWZ received a page from Western Medical Center in Santa Ana.  Upon checking, she learned that a power failure that had caused the hospital to switch to its emergency generators.  Cheryl and her husband Ken Simpson W6KOS alerted HDSCS Coordinator April Moell WA6OPS and Ken prepared to depart for the hospital.  April made contact with the hospital's Communications Supervisor, who requested that two communicators come to the hospital to stand by in case of communications problems during the power outage.  She contacted Tom Hall N6DGK, who began his response with Ken Simpson.  A few minutes later, commercial power was restored.  After consultation with the hospital's Incident Commander, the HDSCS operators' response was cancelled.

Placentia-Linda Hospital Emergency Activation #122:  At 6:45 PM on October 7, 2014, April Moell received a telephone call from the Disaster Coordinator of Western Medical Center in Santa Ana.  There were no communications problems there, but he had just learned via ReddiNet* that all telephones were down at Coastal Communities Hospital nearby in Santa Ana.  April immediately established an on-air net and alerted four HDSCS members in the vicinity of Coastal Communities Hospital to make a rapid response there.  The first arrived at 7:30 PM and the others arrived very shortly thereafter.  By then, the hospital's technician had replaced a power supply and phones were coming back up.  By request of the Coastal Disaster Coordinator, the HDSCS operators deployed to the Hospital Command Center, Cardiac Care, Emergency Department and PBX/Security.  They maintained an internal net until 9 PM to insure that the system was stable.  Four additional members were standing by for relief in case the activation had lasted late into the night.  Responding to the hospital were Ken Simpson W6KOS, Dave Popko AF6TN, Justin Ennen AI6CI and Tom Gaccione WB2LRH.  Net Controls and supporting base stations were Allen Bullock KD6LCL, April Moell WA6OPS and Dave West KI6EPI.

Emergency Activation #121:  At approximately 6:30 AM on September 8, 2014, April Moell WA6OPS received a call via cell phone from Placentia-Linda hospital, where the telephone system had just gone down.  The hospital was following established procedures by notifying HDSCS per its call-up list.  April immediately established a network on the HDSCS main repeater and called members who lived nearest the hospital for rapid response to provide backup communications.  As members set out for the hospital, the hospital's phones were brought back online, but Joe Moell KØOV continued to the hospital and remained on the HDSCS on-air net for a half-hour to be on-site in case the problem recurred.

La Habra quakeShortly after 4:30 PM on Thursday, July 24, 2014 an equipment fire at a Southern California Edison facility in Irvine caused a power outage that affected almost 8000 residential customers and two HDSCS-supported hospitals.  Hoag-Irvine Hospital and Kaiser Permanente Hospital in that city immediately went on their emergency generators, which powered most but not all of these campuses.  Upon learning of the outage, HDSCS went on alert status and formed jump teams that were ready to go on-site if telephone failures occurred at these facilities during the outage.  HDSCS coordinators made contact with the Disaster Coordinator at Kaiser and the Telecommunications Lead at Hoag to review activation procedures and to keep in contact about the outage status.  Fortunately, no telephone problems occurred during the outage, which lasted until 7:45 PM at Hoag and 8:45 PM at Kaiser.  Members of the jump teams included Paul Broden K6MHD, Mark Kern KE6QXF, Dave Popko AF6TN, Bill Preston KZ3G, Ken Simpson W6KOS and Fred Wagner KQ6Q.

April Moell controls emergency net from car HDSCS members were forming a net within seconds after the Richter 5.1 earthquake that struck north Orange County at 9:09 PM on March 28, 2014.  Thirty members checked in during the first few minutes, ready for deployment to hospitals if needed.  Twenty hospitals in the quake area were checked by HDSCS members, but fortunately none suffered significant damage or communications failure.  The net was secured at 10:30 PM, but members continued to monitor for the remainder of the evening in case of strong aftershocks.

Emergency Activation #120:  An electrical failure took down all telephones at Placentia-Linda Hospital on Saturday evening, December 28, 2013.  The hospital switchboard operator used the facility's Call-up List to notify HDSCS of the problem and request communications backup.  HDSCS member Dale Petes KI6ANS was first to be reached at 8:25 PM.  Dale followed HDSCS procedures by first calling a Coordinator (April Moell WA6OPS) and then setting out for the hospital with his go-kit.  By 8:56 PM, Dale was operational in the Hospital's Command Center using his radio equipment and the hospital's rooftop antenna.  As he was en route, three other HDSCS members, who were monitoring the main repeater, grabbed their go-kits and went to the hospital.  By 9:20 PM, HDSCS operators were providing communications from the Command Center, Emergency Department, Intensive Care Unit and switchboard. Fortunately, the telephone problem was repaired and the phones returned to operation around 10:05 PM.  After a 30-minute wait to insure that everything was stable, our operations were secured.  In addition to Dale, the responders to the hospital were Pete Martinez K2PTM, Dahna Malheim KK6FIH and Dave Reinhard KJ6REP.  Net Control and Base Station was April Moell WA6OPS.  Ready in case an all-night response was needed were relief operators Paul Broden K6MHD, Dave Conklin KI6LYZ, Louie DeArman K6SM, Tom Gaccione WB2LRH and Ken Simpson W6KOS.

Paul Broden K6MHD at Childrens HospitalEmergency Activation #119:  At 8:30 PM on Monday, November 18, 2013, HDSCS was notified by Orange County Emergency Medical Service Agency of a telephone failure at Anaheim Regional Hospital.  No incoming calls were being received and there was concern about other aspects of the system.  Paul Broden K6MHD (pictured at left), who was monitoring the main HDSCS repeater, was prepared with his go-kit and immediately set out for the hospital.  Besides serving as the outside base contact for the hospital, April Moell WA6OPS telephoned the Control One Supervisor at the county EOC and gave her number for contact in the event that the hospital needed to be reached by families, physicians, ambulance companies and other agencies during the outage.  K6MHD remained on the air at the hospital until 11:45 PM when repairs were complete and the phone system was stable.  If the outage had lasted further into the night or if the internal phones had also failed, a "jump team" of additional HDSCS members was standing by and monitoring the on-air activities.  In that team were Dave Conklin KI6LYZ, Justin Miller KI6AFZ and Dave Popko AF6TN.

Childrens Hospital of OC Emergency Activation #118:  At 11:45 PM on Thursday, July 18, 2013, all 120,000 customers of San Diego Gas and Electric in southern Orange County lost power, including residents of Laguna Hills, Laguna Beach, Mission Viejo and San Clemente.  Four hospitals supported by HDSCS are in these communities, and all of them were immediately checked by HDSCS members to insure that the telephones in those facilities had not failed.  No phone failures were reported, but San Clemente Hospital requested a HDSCS member to be an on-site standby for the duration of the outage.  John Walker AC7GK responded, set up his portable station in the Hospital Command Post, and was in contact with HDSCS Net Control Ken Simpson W6KOS until power was restored around 3 AM.

Emergency Activation #117:  At 7:30 AM on January 9, 2013, HDSCS was activated by Children's Hospital of Orange County (CHOC) due to telephone problems.  Dial tone was intermittent and incoming calls were not being received.  Seven HDSCS communicators were immediately deployed in response.  As the first two were arriving at CHOC, about 35 minutes after being called, service was being restored.  In accordance with HDSCS procedures, they remained until full service was restored and stable for 30 minutes.  This was the first time communicators had been in the newly relocated telephone center, which is in the basement of the newest patient tower.   No Amateur Radio antenna has as yet been installed, but the incoming hams were well prepared.  By setting up their own crossband repeater in the parking lot, they were able to establish communication to the external base station and between critical hospital locations.  Communicating from the hospital were Glen Lowe KJ6YTN and Ken Simpson W6KOS.  Other activated communicators were Cindy Orrico W6WGA, Joe Orrico WB6HRO and Fred Wagner KQ6Q.  Net Controls and outside base stations providing support were April Moell WA6OPS and Joe Moell KØOV.

Selected Drills and Standby Operations

Standbys #121 and #122:  Early on Sunday morning, January 22, 2017, HDSCS communicators were on site at Placentia-Linda Hospital for planned power system work.  No down time of the telephone system was expected, but as with all standbys, we were there for rapid response if something were to go wrong and affect the telephones.  As it turned out, a problem with the hospital's generator prevented the planned power work from being done, and the standby operation was terminated after about four hours, to be rescheduled later.  Operating in the hospital were Tom Gaccione WB2LRH, Bob Houghton KD6QF and Dale Petes KI6ANS.  Outside base station operators were Paul Broden K6MHD, April Moell WA6OPS and Joe Moell KØOV.  The work was rescheduled for the late evening of Friday, February 24 and once again a team of HDSCS members was there for support.  Although there were delays, the work was successfully completed and the team secured operations at 6:15 AM.  In the hospital were Paul Broden K6MHD, Bob Houghton KD6QF, Dale Petes KI6ANS and Jim Whited AI6EZ.  Outside base station operators were April Moell WA6OPS and Joe Moell KØOV.

START triage during OC disaster drill Drill #204:  The annual California Statewide Medical Health Exercise took place on Thursday, November 17, 2016.  HDSCS members communicated from numerous hospitals plus a facility of Orange County Healthcare agency (OC-HCA).  The drill scenario was a freight train striking a bus full of children, causing a large surge of pediatric patients at the hospitals and overloading of communications systems.  The HDSCS emphasis was a realistic response using our established Call-Up procedures.  Our members received their assignments just a few hours before the event.  Instead of going into the hospitals and setting up prior to the drill start, they pre-staged nearby and went inside after the hospitals activated HDSCS by telephone or pager.  This taught our members what it is like to enter, get to Command Centers and get on the air quickly with their portable equipment under stressful conditions.  In the individual Hospital Command Centers, our members were shoulder-to-shoulder with the Incident Commander, the Logistics Officer, and other staff members in Hospital Incident Command System positions.  About halfway through the exercise, a power outage occurred in the neighborhood of Foothill Regional Medical Center.  The hospital went to generator power and HDSCS members readied to bring in additional communicators if a telephone outage occurred.  Drill participants at the hospitals were Matthew Edlin KK6RVY, Ross Farley KK6DTO, Tom Gaccione WB2LRH, Dave Gorin KB6BXD, Tom Hall N6DGK, Bob Houghton AD6QF, Rebecca Katzen KI6OEM, Ted Kramer NB6N, Pete Martinez K2PTM, Justin Miller KI6AFZ, Joe Moell KØOV, Dale Petes KI6ANS, Dave Reinhard KJ6REP, Carlos Santos KK6KUF, Ken Simpson W6KOS, Claudia Whited W6YTD, Jim Whited AI6EZ and Dave West KI6EPI.  Net Control was April Moell WA6OPS and.  Jon Schaffer W6UFS operated from the OC-HCA Operations Center.  Only two of the HDSCS participants are hospital employees.  The rest are ham operators of many occupations who have attended our specialized training sessions and took time off to support this valuable mission by being dedicated medical communicators.

Great Shakeout certificateDrill #203:  Although no Orange County hospitals activated their Command Centers for the annual Great California Shakeout on October 20, 2016, HDSCS members held their own on-air preparedness drill.  Right after the simulated Richter 7.8 earthquake at 10:20 AM, members established a net and followed the procedures that would have been followed after an actual quake.  Members checked in, stating their location and the hospital closest to them at that moment.  In an actual quake situation, these members would either go to the closest hospital or would be reassigned to another hospital by Net Control to insure that the status of all supported hospitals would be determined as quickly as possible.  From time to time, Net Control also asked questions regarding preparedness items that responders had with them.  April Moell WA6OPS was Net Control.  Net participants were Paul Broden K6MHD, Allen Bullock KD6LCL, Tom Gaccione WB2LRH, Dave Gorin KB6BXD, Bob Houghton AD6QF, Joe Orrico WB6HRO, Dale Petes KI6ANS, Dave Popko AF6TN, Ken Simpson W6KOS, Dave West KI6EPI and Greg Landers KE6DAN.  In addition, Rebecca Katzen KI6OEM went to Los Alamitos Medical Center during this exercise to test the two Amateur Radio antennas there, because problems with one antenna had been reported in a previous drill.

HDSCS communicators at Garden Grove HospitalDrill #202: The second Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services (RACES) drill for Orange County in 2016 took place on October 1.  In this "armchair" drill, our members do not physically go to the hospitals, but instead they simulate being at the hospitals in the various cities.  The emphasis of this exercise is communications with the city and county RACES groups.  It is important for them to realize that we automatically go to hospitals in their cities during disasters. They need to understand the types of tactical messages that may need to pass between hospitals and local government.  It's good practice for the various groups to move to each others' frequencies and to learn about their net procedures.  This time, the scenario was high winds causing numerous wildfires in the county's mountains and canyons.  HDSCS simulated operations at 19 medical facilities plus an ambulance company and the Orange County Health Care Agency's Department Operations Center.  Eighteen city RACES groups, plus the county RACES and OC Red Cross exchanged messages and inquiries.  HDSCS Net Control operator was Joe Moell KØOV.  Ken Simpson W6KOS operated from the county's Emergency Operations Center.  Other participating HDSCS members were Paul Broden K6MHD, Dave Elder KA6TBF, Tom Hall N6DGK, Bob Houghton AD6QF, Justin Ennen AI6CI, Rebecca Katzen KI6OEM, Greg Landers KE6DAN, Natalie Lopez KM6CNB, Justin Miller KI6ARZ, April Moell WA6OPS, Joe Orrico WB6HRO, Allen Renning WB6CKG, Ralph Swanson WB6JBI, Claudia Whited W6YTD and Jim Whited AI6EZ.

Standby #120:  It was another all-nighter (nearly) for some HDSCS members as UCI Medical Center performed a telephone system conversion starting at 9 PM on August 12, 2016.  Our communicators were in five critical areas of the facility, keeping in touch with one another through the HDSCS portable UHF repeater that was set up in the Hospital Command Center.  An outside base station was always ready to accept outgoing messages.  Operating within the facility for shifts of various lengths were Dave Conklin KI6LYZ, Tom Gaccione WB2LRH, David Gorin KB6BXD, Bill Greganti KG6EEK, Rebecca Katzen KI6OEM, Greg Landers KE6DAN, Justin Miller KI6AFZ, Dave Reinhard KJ6REP and Carlos Santos KK6UF.  Base station operators were Paul Broden K6MHD, April Moell WA6OPS and Joe Moell KØOV.

Standby operation at Garden Grove Hospital Standby #119:  When Huntington Beach Hospital performed work on its telephone trunk lines in the wee hours of June 24, 2016, HDSCS members were present to provide immediate support in the event of telephone problems in the 131-bed facility.  Tom Gaccione WB2LRH was in the Emergency Department, Justin Miller KI6AFZ was in the Hospital Command Center and Rebecca Katzen KI6OEM was "shadow" to the House Supervisor.  Serving as outside base station operators were April Moell WA6OPS and Joe Moell KØOV.  Other members were standing by in case additional time was needed.  Fortunately, the work went smoothly and was completed by 4:45 AM.

Drill #201: HDSCS was an important participant in the Orange County Multi-Agency Disaster Net (OCMAD) spring drill on May 24, 2016, which simulated active shooter situations taking place simultaneously in three public locations within the county.  Volunteer simulated "victims" were transported to hospitals from each of the three locations, and some participating hospitals also simulated active shooters within their facilities.  Prior to the start, HDSCS responders staged outside the facilities so that hospital staff members could practice using our pager activation system to call us into their Hospital Command Centers.  HDSCS responders were Dave Conklin KI6LYZ, Craig Douglas KK6DBJ, Matthew Edlin KK6RVY, Ross Farley KK6DTO, Tom Gaccione WB2LRH, David Gorin KB6BXD, Bill Greganti KG6EEK, Tom Hall N6DGK, Bob Houghton AD6QF, Greg Landers KE6DAN, Rebecca Katzen KI6OEM, Pete Martinez K2PTM, Justin Miller KI6AFZ, Joe Moell KØOV, Carlos Santos KK6KUF, Jon Schaffer W6UFS, Ken Simpson W6KOS, Dave West KI6EPI, Claudia Whited W6YTD and Jim Whited AI6EZ.  The HDSCS Net Control was April Moell WA6OPS.

Galel Fajardo KD6AYP at decon drill Standby #118:  At 8 PM on May 20, 2016, all the telephones of Huntington Beach Hospital were taken down for several hours while a major upgrade to the system was performed.  The hospital's Disaster Coordinator had requested support from HDSCS in advance, so operators were in place in the Command Center and critical units with internal UHF communications from beginning to end.  We "shadowed" the House Supervisor and communicated from Emergency Department, Intensive Care and the Laboratory.  April Moell WA6OPS and Jon Schaffer W6UFS were outside base stations, serving as a lifeline for external communications.  HDSCS members inside the hospital were Matthew Edlin KK6RVY, Tom Gaccione WB2LRH, Tom Hall N6DGK, Bob Houghton AD6QF, Rebecca Katzen KI6OEM and Natalie Lopez KM6CNB,

WestMed SNA standby ops Standby #117:  HDSCS members were in place at 9 PM on Friday, May 13, 2016 as UC-Irvine Medical Center in Orange performed software upgrades to its telephone system.  Using their own radio gear and the HDSCS portable UHF repeater, they were in constant contact with one another and with base stations operated first by April Moell WA6OPS and later by Jon Schaffer W6UFS, ready in case the phone system failed and messages had to be relayed into and out of the hospital.  The upgrades went smoothly and the system was declared operational and stable at approximately 3 AM.  Responders to the hospital (in two shifts) were Justin Ennen AI6CI, Tom Gaccione WB2LRH, David Gorin KB6BXD, Rebecca Katzen KI6OEM, Tom Hall N6DGK, Bob Houghton AD6QF, Natalie Lopez KM6CNB, Pete Martinez K2PTM, Claudia Whited W6YTD and Jim Whited AI6EZ.

Drill #200: HDSCS was heavily involved in the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Services (RACES) and MOU Partners drill for Orange County that took place on Saturday, May 7, 2016.  The scenario was a complete and long-lasting power failure.  Our goal was to pass simulated messages between each of our supported hospitals and their local municipalities as represented by city and county RACES organizations, in accordance with our Memorandum of Understanding.  Also included were typical messages that would be relayed for the EMS Departmental Operations Center.  In addition, we exchanged messages with Orange County Red Cross.  Over 30 messages were originated by HDSCS in the two-hour drill.  There were also many replies to these messages handled, as well as message traffic for us that was originated by the RACES groups.  Our net was busy non-stop!  Other messages were passed via various city/county RACES repeaters and simplex frequencies.  HDSCS Net Control operator was Joe Moell KØOV.  Other participating HDSCS members were Paul Broden K6MHD, Matthew Edlin KK6RVY, Tom Gaccione WB2LRH, Bob Houghton AD6QF, Rebecca Katzen KI6OEM, Justin Miller KI6AFZ, April Moell WA6OPS, Ray Rittenhouse KF6WZN, Dale Petes KI6ANS, Ken Simpson W6KOS, Jon Schaffer W6UFS, Ralph Swanson WB6JBI and Woody Woodward W6PA.

Bill Greganti KG6EEK in HCC at CHOCDrill #199:  Bioterrorism was the scenario for the 2015 statewide medical disaster drill.  On November 16, according to the exercise scenario, the release of a biological agent was detected in the county.  Officials immediately began planning for mass prophylaxis for all southern California inhabitants. By Thursday, November 19, the day of the drill, hospitals were experiencing a surge of patients with severe respiratory symptoms.  At the same time, multiple points of distribution (PODs) were being set up for mass prophylaxis.  At approximately 8 AM on Thursday, HDSCS members went to sixteen of our supported hospitals and a facility of the county's Emergency Medical Services Agency (OC-EMSA), simulating a new Hospital Incident Command System (HICS) operational period.  Prior to 8 AM, our member participants had been staged near these facilities so they could experience going into the hospitals and setting up their Amateur Radio equipment in HCCs in the midst of the simulated surge.  The HDSCS on-air net was kept busy with simulated supply-related messages (resource requests) as the hospitals practiced how they maintain critical functions and supplies in the face of a major patient surge.  Responding to hospitals were Paul Broden K6MHD, Louie DeArman K6SM, Justin Ennen AI6CI, Steve Falzon KI6IXP, Tom Gaccione WB2LRH, Dave Gorin KB6BXD, Rebecca Katzen KI6OEM, Pete Martinez K2PTM, Justin Miller KI6AFZ, Dale Murry AG6SC, Dale Petes KI6ANS, Dave Reinhard KJ6REP, Ray Rittenhouse KF6WZN, Carlos Santos KK6KUF, Ken Simpson W6KOS, Dave West KI6EPI and Woody Woodward W6PA.   Net Controls and outside base stations were April Moell WA6OPS, Joe Moell KØOV and Cheryl Simpson KD6MWZ.  Jon Schaffer W6UFS communicated from the Orange County Healthcare Agency facility.

Allen Bullock KD6LCL at an EMS facility Drill #196:  In place of the annual springtime Golden Guardian exercise, Orange County hospitals and the county's healthcare agency staged the OCMAD SurfQuake Drill on Thursday, May 21, 2015.  Twenty-three HDSCS members participated in this exercise, which simulated a 7.2 magnitude earthquake on the Newport-Inglewood Fault, centered in Huntington Beach and rupturing north from end to end.  Among the many affected facilities was a child care center that suffered a roof callapse, sending 120 unaccompanied children to Emergency Departments at Orange County hospitals.  These hospitals practiced their procedures for pediatric patient surge, accompanied by loss of power, water, and communications.  Our communicators responded to 17 hospitals, where they sat side-by-side with staff members in the Hospitals' Command Centers. There they provided back-up communications and messaging in accordance with procedures of the Hospital Incident Command System (HICS).  HDSCS also communicated from two OC Healthcare Agency locations.  Net Control was April Moell WA6OPS.  In the field were Paul Broden K6MHD, Dave Conklin KI6LYZ, Craig Douglas KK6DBJ, Matthew Edlin KK6RVY, Tom Gaccione WB2LRH, David Gorin KB6BXD, Bill Greganti KG6EEK, Roman Kamienski KG6QMZ, Rebecca Katzen KI6OEM, Mark Kern KE6QXF, Dahna Malheim N6DLM, Pete Martinez K2PTM, Justin Miller KI6AFZ, Joe Moell KØOV, Dale Petes KI6ANS, Dave Reinhard KJ6REP, Ken Simpson W6KOS, Dave West KI6EPI, Claudia Whited W6YTD, Jim Whited AI6EZ, Woody Woodward W6PA and Larry Woolf KF6YCM.

Standby #116:  West Anaheim Medical Center performed a major upgrade of its telephone system on February 26, 2015.  Because the system would be down for much of the night, HDSCS communicators were placed in key areas of the hospital to provide rapid internal communication if needed.  They arrived at 7 PM and were in place when the work began at 8 PM.  In two shifts, they covered the outage and the system test time, which lasted until 4:30 AM.  Team leaders were Tom Gaccione WB2LRH and Dave Reinhard KJ6REP.  Others in the hospital were Dave Conklin KI6LYZ, Craig Douglas KK6DBJ, Matt Edlin KK6RVY, Justin Ennen AI6CI, Pete Martinez K2PTM, Dale Murry AG6SC, Claudia Whited W6YTD and Jim Whited AI6EZ.  Outside base stations were Paul Broden K6MHD, Joe Moell KØOV, April Moell WA6OPS, Fred Wagner KQ6Q and Woody Woodward W6PA.

Command Center at St. Joseph Hospital Standby #115:  The first HDSCS standby operation of 2015 took place in the wee hours of Thursday, January 22 at Childrens Hospital of Orange County.  Three sections of the telephone system were being upgraded with new software, requiring that the phones be temporarily taken down.  Four HDSCS operators arrived about 3:30 AM and were stationed in key areas, while other operators were on an off-site "jump team" to respond rapidly in case the phones ended up being out for an extended period.  The work began at 4:10 and was complete by 5:20, after which the HDSCS operators stayed for 30 minutes to make sure that the system was stable.  On location at the hospital were Dave Conklin KI6LYZ, Justin Ennen AI6CI, Rebecca Katzen KI6OEM and Carlos Santos KK6KUF.  The outside base station and net control operator was April Moell WA6OPS.

Ken Simpson W6KOS at Chapman HospitalStandby #114: Five HDSCS communicators responded to Placentia-Linda Hospital at 9 PM on Tuesday, September 30, 2014 for a pre-arranged standby operation while work was being done on the telephone system.  Technicians had to completely it shut down the phone system to make upgrades.  During that time, our operators were there to provide communications for patient care units and other critical departments.  In addition to the on-site operators, two members were at their home base stations to handle messages into and out of the facility.  The phone work proceeded without incident and messages were minimal because of the lateness of the hour.  Once phones were restored, the hams remained for an additional half hour before departing to insure that the phones were stable.  Team Leader and Net Control within the hospital was Dale Petes KI6ANS.  Other operators within the facility were Bill Greganti KG6EEK, Rebecca Katzen KI6OEM, Claudia Whited KK6NNT and Jim Whited KK6MXQ.  Outside base station operators were Jon Schaffer W6UFS and April Moell WA6OPS.  Three additional members were standing by at home in case the operation had continued and relief operators were needed.

WA6OPS at base station Drill #191: The annual Golden Guardian 2014 Full Scale Exercise in Orange County involved the National Disaster Medical System (NDMS).  The drill scenario was a severe earthquake in northern California that necessitated the evacuation of hospitals there.  Transport of those patients by military airlift and ambulance to hospitals here was simulated, with over 240 volunteer and paper "victims" arriving at Orange County medical facilities in the evening of Thursday, June 12.  Under NDMS procedures, participating Orange County hospitals received notice of the impending arrivals on Wednesday, so they were able to plan ahead for resources, including Amateur Radio communicators, in advance.  HDSCS call-up responders began receiving requests for communicators that day.  At 4 PM on Thursday, HDSCS members went to fifteen requesting hospitals, set up their equipment and networked to handle numerous messages including resource requests to the county's Emergency Medical Services Agency (OC-EMS) and resolution of victims transport issues.  OC-EMS introduced several surprises into the drill to test response of the hospitals, including a simulated half-hour area-wide telephone outage and numerous misdirected victims.  HDSCS members operating from hospitals were Paul Broden K6MHD, Craig Douglas KK6DBJ, Galel Fajardo, Jr. KD6AYP, Roman Kamienski KG6QMZ, Mark Kern KE6QXF, Glen Lowe KJ6YTN, Dahna Malheim N5DLM, Pete Martinez K2PTM, Jim McLaughlin AB6UF, Justin Miller KI6AFZ, Ray Nienburg KJ6AOX, Dale Petes KI6ANS, Dave Reinhard KJ6REP, Ray Rittenhouse KF6WZN, Ken Simpson W6KOS, Fred Wagner KQ6Q and Dave West KI6EPI.  Communicating from OC-EMS Department Operations Center was Joe Moell KØOV.  At the Federal Coordinating Center at Camp Pendleton was Tom Gaccione WB2LRH.  Net Controls were April Moell WA6OPS (at right) and Dave Popko AF6TN.

Standby #113:  Southern California Edison shut off power to portions of the city of Garden Grove at 10:30 PM on Thursday, April 17, 2014 to perform scheduled maintenance.  Included in the outage was Garden Grove Hospital.  Upon learning of the scheduled outage, the hospital's Director of Facilities and Director of Security requested that HDSCS provide on-site operators during the outage in case communications failure took place while the hospital was operating on its emergency generators.  When the outage began, six members were on hand with their own radio equipment in locations such as the switchboard, Emergency Department, Post-Partum Care and Intensive Care.  Three additional members took turns as external base station contacts to insure that the facility was always in touch with the outside world.  No communications failures occurred during the five and a half hours of the outage, but it was an excellent drill for our operators.  At the hospital were Dave Conklin KI6LYZ, Bill Greganti KG6EEK, Tom Hall N6DGK, Rebecca Katzen KI6OEM, Justin Miller KI6AFZ and Fred Wagner KQ6Q.  Outside base operators were Paul Broden K6MHD, April Moell WA6OPS and Jon Schaffer W6UFS.

Meetings and Other Activities

Coin recipients HDSCS held its traditional annual Year-End/Year-Beginning meeting, complete with the "Final Exam" on January 25, 2017 at Care Ambulance headquarters in Orange.  As always, attendees were divided into teams to answer the questions, which included hospital terminology and practical in-hospital communications techniques.  The team with the best score received prizes and everyone got a share of the well-chiseled UBCB (Unbelievably Big Chocolate Bar).  Certificates, prizes and HDSCS coins were presented to the most active members of the previous year, the 2016 Disaster Dozen.  Pictured at right are three first-time Disaster Dozen members, who received HDSCS coins.  They are David Gorin KB6BXD, Bob Houghton AD6QF and Greg Landers KE6DAN.  The others are Paul Broden K6MHD, Justin Ennen AI6CI, Tom Gaccione WB2LRH, Tom Hall N6DGK, Rebecca Katzen KI6OEM, Justin Miller KI6AFZ, Joe Moell KØOV, Jon Schaffer W6UFS and Ken Simpson W6KOS.  Winner of the Outstanding New Member award for exceptional participation by a person who joined during 2016 was Natalie Lopez KM6CNB.

Pin recipients Regulations affecting hospital accreditation, disaster planning and Command Center operations was the subject of the HDSCS membership meeting of November 14, 2016 at Kaiser Permanente Hospital in Anaheim. Our speaker was Gregory Landers, C.P.M. KE6DAN, the Executive Director of Support Services at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center and Miller Children's Hospital.

HDSCS held a well-attended membership meeting in the Command Center conference room of UCI Medical Center in Orange on September 29, 2016.  The hospital provided a buffet supper, then Dr. Sam Stratton W5AGX gave a presentation on the trauma centers in Orange and surrounding counties.  Eleven members received service pins for providing communications in hospitals when telephones were down in recent months.

Radio testing HDSCS holds frequent "radio coaching" sessions to help new members become proficient at operating their own portable equipment.  The most recent session was September 10, 2016 at the headquarters of Care Ambulance, immediately following an open examination session for Amateur Radio licensing.  Tom Gaccione WB2LRH and Joe Moell KØOV explained the basics of VHF/UHF repeaters, subaudible tones, and hand-held radio programming.  The attendees were assigned to individual radio coaches who helped them master the technique of quickly finding frequencies and programming memories.  This is important because during drills and activations, HDSCS members often have to quickly get resources from the Red Cross, local RACES groups, and so forth by going to their net repeaters and simplex frequencies. 

Field DayField Day is an annual communications preparedness exercise of the American Radio Relay League in which HDSCS has participated for many years.  2016 was the fifteenth year that our Field Day has taken place at Huntington Beach Hospital (HBH), one of our supported facilities, and it has never been better.  The hospital's decontamination and surge capacity tents were set up to house our stations.  HBH employees and staff as well as county emergency management officials were encouraged to visit our operation.  In mid-afternoon was a ham radio licensing and upgrade session.  Besides the usual voice operations, several members operated CW mode (Morse Code) and there were contacts through orbiting Amateur Radio satellites.  Many thanks to Tom Gaccione WB2LRH and Dave Reinhard KJ6REP for organizing, to Justin Ennen AI6CI and Rick Soikkeli N6NH for setting up the computer logging network, to Joe Moell KØOV for the satellite station, to Tom Hall N6DGK for the solar-powered station, to Woody Woodward W6PA for the use of his callsign and to Ken Simpson W6KOS for preparing the results package to submit to ARRL.  Click here for a page of photos from Field Day 2016.

Response to an active shooter situation was the topic of the HDSCS membership meeting on May 16, 2016.  Our speaker was George Bandy, the Director of Security at Orange County Global Medical Center.

The annual HDSCS Orientation and Review Workshop took place at the Schilling Training Center of Care Ambulance Service on Saturday, March 19, 2016.  It was a full day with reviews of basic concepts, procedures, and preparedness, along with updates on handling medical messages and doing realistic drills.  Members brought in their "go kits" and portable stations for show and tell.  In addition to the usual learning modules by April Moell WA6OPS, Joe Moell KØOV and Tom Gaccione WB2LRH, there was a special presentation by Gregory Landers KE6DAN, Executive Director of Support Services at Long Beach Memorial Hospital.  His topic was the Hospital Incident Command System (HICS) from the perspective of the Incident Commander.  There was also a new module about electronic medical records from Dave West KI6EPI, Director of Laboratory and Cardiopulmonary Services at College Hospital in Costa Mesa.  As always, a highlight was the noontime "disaster potluck" with everything from baked chicken breasts, spaghetti and meatballs to fruit plates, salads, homemade cakes and cookies.  Click for photos and more informaton about our annual workshop.

Paul Russell KD6COPPaul Russell KD6COP (at left), Medical Liaison of the Orange County Intelligence Assessment Center, was speaker for the HDSCS membership meeting on November 13, 2015.  The topic was biological surveillance, including the techniques now being used in the county for early detection of disease outbreaks, whether natural or man-caused.

Service pin Many HDSCS members are wearing special pins to recognize their prior service to medical facilities.  These 1.2-inch HDSCS logo pins are being given to members who have provided Amateur Radio communications within our supported hospitals when telephones were inoperative or overloaded in a planned or unplanned event.  Pins are presented to new members after their first service within a hospital under the same circumstances.  More than 85 HDSCS members have qualified for pins so far.  According to HDSCS leader April Moell WA6OPS, "This is a great way to recognize our members for doing what they train and prepare to do, namely to help hospital patients by providing essential communications for their caregivers.  Thanks to Dave West KI6EPI for donating these fine pins."

The annual HDSCS Termite Time took place during October and November 2015.  Members were encouraged to "come out of the woodwork" and talk to their fellow members on the repeaters used by HDSCS.  Points for on-air activity were awarded and there were occasional quizzes for extra points, with questions on medical communications topics and "termite trivia." 

On Thursday, August 13, 2015, HDSCS members met at Care Ambulance headquarters to learn all about mass casualty incidents, how hospitals prepare for them and respond to them.  Two videos about the crash of United Flight 232 at Sioux City airport were shown, illustrating how dozens of survivors were triaged, transported from the scene, and treated at the two local hospitals.

Education and preparation for the SurfQuake exercise (See Drill #196 above) brought HDSCS members to Care Ambulance Headquarters for a meeting on May 18, 2015. Our automatic Core Team response procedures were reviewed and members saw slides and two videos on the effects of earthquakes on medical facilities and their staff members.

Dr. Michelle CheungMembers attending the HDSCS meeting of November 13, 2014 were treated to a comprehensive presentation on viral infections by Michelle Cheung, MD, MPH (at left).  She is Deputy Director of Epidemiology for the Orange County Health Care Agency.  The presentation included detailed information about Ebola Virus Disease (EVD), Enterovirus D-68 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).  Her agency publishes regular updates on status of the flu epidemic in our county.  Also at the meeting, April Moell WA6OPS gave a presentation on messaging and nets in preparation for the statewide medical health exercise.

At a five-hour mini-workshop on Saturday, November 1, 2014, a group of the newest HDSCS members got "up to speed" in their knowledge and preparation for supporting hospitals.  Basics of hospital support, the Hospital Incident Command System, activation procedures, message protocol, "go kits" and repeater use were well covered.  This session was especially for members who had not been able to attend the annual all-day training workshop in March.  April Moell WA6OPS was the primary presenter, assisted by Joe Moell KØOV and Tom Gaccione WB2LRH.

HDSCS members met in the Medical Office Building next to Garden Grove Hospital on September 29, 2014 for a lesson module on handling medical messages as well as traffic to and from city and county EOCs.  It was to help new members prepare (and old members review) for an upcoming city/county drill.  Besides message formatting and sending techniques, the lesson covered net procedures, with role-playing practices.

At the HDSCS membership meeting of August 28, 2014 at Mission Regional Hospital, members learned about the 2014 revision of the Hospital Incident Command System (HICS) documentation, including a new Job Aid sheet for Amateur Radio operators.  Presenting was Mary Massey, R.N. (at right), who is Hospital Preparedness Coordinator of the California Hospital Association.

COMEX displayHDSCS was on display during the COMEX communications exhibition at the Army Reserve Facility in Costa Mesa on Saturday, June 7, 2014.  About two dozen members of the Tustin Young Marines were given the opportunity to send and receive simulated medical messages.  In the photo at left is one preparing to send a message with help from Paul Broden K6MHD.  In addition, about forty Army reservists learned about Amateur Radio's support for the hospitals in OC and how this could benefit the military if the National Disaster Medical System were to be called into action.

Care AmbulanceThe HDSCS membership meeting at La Palma Hospital on May 28, 2014 was primarily to provide details of an upcoming National Disaster Medical System drill, but there was also information about other upcoming activities, including COMEX, Ham Jam and Field Day.  Repairs to two Amateur Radio antennas atop this hospital have just been completed.

HDSCS held a public open house in the conference center of Care Ambulance headquarters in Orange on Sunday, May 18, 2014.  Member displays showed how the group provides backup communications internally and externally for hospitals and how messages can be relayed by the National Traffic System.  Care Ambulance showed some emergency equipment.  There were also displays by representatives from Childrens Hospital of Orange County and College Hospital in Costa Mesa.  Amateur Radio license tests were administered to 18 persons.  Photos of the open house are in this site.

HDSCS recommends that all supported hospitals install VHF/UHF rooftop antennas with low-loss coaxial cable going to the room designated as the Hospital Command Center.  Some hospitals have installed additional antennas to serve important units such as the Emergency Department.  Funding for some of these antennas has been by grants obtained by the Orange County Heathcare Agency.  In most cases, antenna masts are installed and coax cables are run by hospital engineering staff, then volunteer members of the HDSCS Antenna Team place the antennas on the mast, put connectors on the coax, and test the completed antenna assembly. 


Talk to DCS meeting

Regular contact with our served hospitals and other agencies insures that HDSCS will be remembered and called out quickly in all Orange County hospital emergency situations.  Each year, HDSCS leaders participate in numerous meetings with Disaster/Safety Committee members from hospitals in the Red, Blue/Green, and Yellow Nets for education, coordination and drill planning.  HDSCS is also represented at regular meetings of the Orange County Emergency Medical Services' Disaster Advisory Group (12 per year), the OC-EMS Healthcare Preparedness Advisory Committee (4 per year) and the ReddiNet* Technical Advisory Group (2 per year).  In addition to those meetings, HDSCS has been on the road, explaining our mission to medical care personnel, ham radio operators, and the public in southern California and elsewhere.  Special presentations, conferences and exhibitions in recent months include:

* ReddiNet® is a commercial inter-hospital communications system using local Internet and satellite connections that is sold to hospitals by Healthcare Association of Southern California and maintained by the Communications Department of the County of Orange.

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This page updated 17 March 2017