Case Studies

radio

Digital upgrade aids emergency response at London hospitals

The installation of a high-tech digital radio system by Pennine marked the latest phase in a major upgrade of emergency response facilities by the Barking, Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals NHS Trust (BHRUT).

The sophisticated Motorola Mototrbo digital two-way radio system was installed at a brand new Command and Control Centre at Romford’s Queen’s Hospital as part of a project which also saw facilities upgraded at sister hospital King George. The project was completed in advance of the London 2012 Olympics for which both hospitals served as major incident centres.

David Bays, BHRUT’s Emergency Planning Officer, believes the Queen’s facility is one of the first dedicated Command and Control Centres opened at a UK hospital. As well as the radio system it is equipped with large screens covering both hospitals, ambulances en route and a three-screen PC to handle incoming data. The Motorola solution will enable major incident response staff to be easily contacted at both hospitals through voice and text communications. Some 90 Motorola SL4000 two-way portable radios can be used by 40 action card holders in the Trust’s Gold, Silver and Bronze emergency response teams and a further 50 staff employed by facilities management providers Sodexo, which provides security, housekeeping and portering services.

The solution was devised by Pennine to triple capacity, enable BHRUT to create dedicated radio channels for its operations and to replicate its command and control infrastructures over both sites. It comprises four Motorola digital bases with the two hospitals linked through an internet (IP) connection so they can communicate and co-ordinate planning. The system also enables all voice and data transmissions to be recorded and broadcasts to be made to individual members of staff, each of the three emergency response teams or all radio holders.

Mr Bays reports the system will play a vital major incident response role: “Having had previous experience of running a major incident I know that good radio communications are paramount. The solution devised by Pennine offers many benefits over our previous one, particularly the recording of all communications which is useful when reviewing our major incident response. The text facility is also very important when key instructions are being issued to specific action card holders because messages can be logged when they’re received and we can see from the Command and Control Centre when an action has been undertaken. There are additional benefits of being able to text all radio holders during an incident, when it may not be possible for them to hear the phone.”

He adds it is also much more resilient as each hospital can act as a back-up to the other. “If we had a major fire at Queen’s we can relocate to King George and still be able to communicate to our handset holders at both sites. Similarly if we were handling a Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear (CBRN) incident at one site we could communicate directly with our teams from the other.”

Installation at Queen’s took just three days, with a further day spent training key staff. “Pennine were fantastic,” reports Mr. Bays. “The roll-out has gone really well and all of the handset holders are really pleased with the choice.”