HDSCS logo, ©1984 ARES logo®

Hospital Disaster Support Communications System

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Our Mission:
Supporting communications that are critical to patient care

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The Hospital Disaster Support Communications System (HDSCS) is a group of about 80 Amateur Radio ("ham") operators who have volunteered to provide backup internal and external communications for critical medical facilities in Orange County, California whenever normal communications are interrupted for any reason. In 2014, HDSCS celebrates its 34th year of service.

The detailed information within this HDSCS Web site is important to:

An Introduction to HDSCS

David Daniel KE6NVJHDSCS is a specialized unit of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES®) in Orange County, California. ARES is the nationwide public service and emergency communications arm of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), which is the largest national association of Amateur Radio enthusiasts. HDSCS claims to be the first and largest ARES unit dedicated solely to hospital support.

HDSCS was formally organized in 1980 at the request of hospitals in north Orange County who hold drills together each year for disaster preparedness. It came about as the result of a phone outage at a large hospital in Fullerton in 1979 and the impressive response of Amateur Radio operators to that emergency. Beginning with seven at inception, the list of HDSCS-supported facilities has grown to include all of the acute care receiving hospitals in the county, plus other critical medical facilities.

All members of HDSCS are FCC-licensed Amateur Radio operators who have their own portable radio equipment ready to respond to nearby hospitals. Member equipment preparedness is vital because almost all HDSCS activations involve backup of communications among units within the facility such as Emergency Department, Intensive Care Unit, Laboratory and Pharmacy. One station (transceiver and antenna) is required for each unit operator in these circumstances.

Communications with staff, suppliers and outside agencies (such as blood banks, Red Cross and county Emergency Medical Services agency) are vital in a disaster. Most of our hospitals have installed dedicated rooftop VHF/UHF antennas and a few have installed Amateur Radio stations for HDSCS use. However, this equipment may not be available or accessible in disaster situations. Therefore, each HDSCS member is prepared to bring battery-operated personal equipment to provide both internal and external communications.

HDSCS members are organized into lists of Call-Up responders and Core Teams. Most members serve in both roles.

Woody Woodward W6PA

Almost all HDSCS members are community volunteers, with a variety of occupations. Only a small fraction are employed by hospitals or other health care organizations. In accordance with FCC regulations, no fees can be charged for our services as communicators on Amateur Radio frequencies. HDSCS does not receive monetary funding from any agency or organization, including ARRL. We have no dues and no treasury. However, the hospitals assist HDSCS and themselves by providing rooftop antennas for our use, as well as services such as pagers and meeting rooms.

Members of HDSCS attend meetings to learn about hospital communication needs, other emergency services/groups, hospital procedures and disaster plans. They practice regularly with the hospitals during both individual facility and county-wide drills.

The originator and leader of HDSCS is April Moell, callsign WA6OPS. There are seven HDSCS Assistant Coordinators. In alphabetical order, they are: Paul Broden K6MHD, Tom Gaccione WB2LRH, Dennis Kidder W6DQ, Jim McLaughlin AB6UF, Joe Moell KØOV, Jon Schaffer W6UFS and Ken Simpson W6KOS.

Certificate from OC-EMS
In addition to our supported hospitals and Orange County Emergency Medical Services, HDSCS and its members have received recognition from legislators at the county, state and national level. Click for details.

More Information Inside This HDSCS Web Site

Dennis Kidder W6DQ How Often Do Hospitals Need Hams, Anyway? -- Our vital statistics and a quiz for you

News Notes -- News of our recent activities, drills, and emergency activations

"CODE BLUE: Hams and Hospital Emergencies" -- An article by Joe Moell

We Get Letters -- Thanks from hospitals we have served and from public officials

Supporting Hospitals with Amateur Radio, Your First Steps -- The right way for your ham radio group to get started in supporting your local hospitals

When the Shaking Starts, It's Too Late to Plan -- Equipment and personal preparedness for emergency communications

Amateur Radio Support for Hospitals, A 30-Year Legacy -- How it Began, The Early Lessons Learned

Frequently Asked Questions From Hospital Administrators and Emergency Planners -- Q & A from local officials about HDSCS and how we support Orange County hospitals

Frequently Asked Questions From Amateur Radio Operators -- April Moell answers inquiries from hams around the country about how best to support their local hospitals

Certified Hospital Communicator Program -- Recognizing the experience and competence of our members

RF Interference in Hospitals -- Our common-sense approach to avoiding it

Patient Privacy, HIPAA, and Amateur Radio Communications -- HDSCS and medical confidentiality

Annual Orientation and Review Workshop -- A day of learning and V.I.P. recognition

North Pole Network -- An annual holiday activity of HDSCS

We're Looking for a Few Good Hams -- How southern California hams can join HDSCS

Welcome to K6QEH/R -- The main HDSCS repeater system

Basics For Hams -- Info given to new HDSCS members

Some Activation Reports (Also see Activations 2011 - 2013)

Photo pages

FCC Acts to Authorize Amateur Radio Operators to Participate in Drills on Behalf of their Employers -- Our analysis and commentary

HDSCS responds to the editorial about Amateur Radio hospital communications in April 2009 QST Magazine and the ARRL E-Letter

Site Search -- Search the HDSCS and North Pole Network sites by word, name, callsign, or phrase

Rosters, procedures, manuals, frequency lists and other internal documents are available only to HDSCS members.

36 Organizations Supported by HDSCS

Due to unstable conditions in the health care industry, our list of supported facilities changes frequently.  The disaster plans of the following institutions include activation of HDSCS for communications support.  Three of these hospitals have recently closed, but may reopen under new management in the future.  (MC = Medical Center)

AHMC Anaheim Regional MC (formerly Anaheim Memorial MC)
Anaheim General Hospital - Anaheim (Closed)
Anaheim General Hospital - Buena Park (Closed)
Chapman Medical Center
Childrens Hospital of Orange County
Coastal Communities Hospital
College Hospital MC
Fairview Developmental Center
Fountain Valley Regional MC
Garden Grove Hospital
HealthBridge Childrens Rehabilitation Center
Healthsouth Tustin Rehabilitation Center
Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian
Hoag-Irvine Hospital (formerly Irvine MC)
Huntington Beach Hospital
Kaiser Permanente Hospital - Anaheim
Kaiser Permanente Hospital - Irvine
Kindred HealthCare - Brea
Kindred HealthCare - Santa Ana (formerly Doctor's Hospital)
Kindred HealthCare - Westminster
La Palma Intercommunity Hospital
Los Alamitos General Hospital
Mission Hospital - Laguna Beach (formerly South Coast MC)
Mission Regional Hospital - Mission Viejo
Newport Specialty Hospital
North Anaheim Surgicenter
Orange Coast Memorial MC
Placentia-Linda Hospital
Saddleback Memorial MC - Laguna Hills
Saddleback Memorial MC - San Clemente (formerly San Clemente Hospital)
St. Joseph Hospital
St. Jude Medical Center
UCI MC
West Anaheim MC
Western MC - Anaheim
Western MC - Santa Ana

Although there are alliances among some of the above facilities, they all do their communications and disaster planning tasks individually. This necessitates regular contact and coordination by HDSCS leadership with each one of them. Thus it is fair to state that HDSCS supports 36 separate organizations in Orange County.

In the photos above:

Amateur Radio operators can provide internal (unit-to-unit) and external (hospital to/from outside world) communications when telephones aren't functional due to failure or maintenance. These are some of the eleven hams who provided internal communications during an upgrade of the phone system at Childrens Hospital of Orange County. They are, seated top to bottom, David Daniel KE6NVJ, Gerald "Woody" Woodward W6PA, and Dennis Kidder W6DQ. Standing next to Dennis on the right is Cheryl Simpson KD6MWZ, serving as "shadow" to the hospital's House Supervisor. Ham operators at the hospital's Command Post and an outside base station provided external communications.

Even though permanent antennas have been installed in most facilities and complete stations in a few of them, they are not always accessible or "close to the action." That's why HDSCS members are always prepared to bring their own radios and antennas into hospitals, as these operators have done.

Certificate from OC-EMS

About the HDSCS Leader

Photo of April

April Moell holds a Master's Degree in Human Resources Management and has over twenty years of patient care experience in physical disabilities and acute rehabilitation.  While managing two departments at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton, she was also the Stroke Program Coordinator and the rehabilitation unit's representative to the hospital's disaster committee.  After leaving St. Jude, she was in private Occupational Therapy practice before retiring for medical reasons.  Now she writes about and consults on the use of backup communications resources.  She is a frequent presenter to radio, medical, and community groups about the use of Amateur Radio in disasters.

April has been active in Amateur Radio since being first licensed in 1976.  While at St. Jude, she founded the Rehab Radio program, which used Amateur Radio communications as a therapy tool with patients recovering from stroke, head injury, and spinal cord injury.  In addition, she initiated the North Pole Network, which brings joy to hospital patients of all ages at Christmas time.  She learned the value of Amateur Radio for to back up patient care communications as a result of a complete phone failure one afternoon.  This led to the formation of HDSCS to support multiple hospitals in the county.

April is a member of the Orange County Multi-Agency Disaster committee (OCMAD) that plans hospitals' participation in mass casualty drills.  In addition, she serves in an advisory capacity on the county's Hospital Preparedness Planning Advisory Committee.  She presented at numerous disaster and radio conferences and has written articles for medical, government, and Amateur Radio publications.  In her spare time, she plays her oboe in the Placentia Symphonic Band and puts on radio-orienteering events with husband Joe, callsign KØOV.

April Moell's book "AMATEUR RADIO: A Communications Resource for Hospital Emergencies" is sold out and is not available at this time.

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Contact:
April Moell, M.A. WA6OPS
P.O. Box 2508
Fullerton, CA 92837
E-mail:
wa6ops@hdscs.org

Surfing suggestion: To see why hospital disaster communications are vitally important, jump to How Often Do Hospitals Need Hams, Anyway?

Any Browser is OK!This Web site designed and constructed by Joe Moell
This page updated 18 September 2014

Entire site Copyright ©1998-2014 Joseph and April Moell. Republication of any content without prior permission is prohibited.
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