Amateur radio group, Barton hospital participate in disaster preparedness drill |

Amateur radio group, Barton hospital participate in disaster preparedness drill

Barton, joining with hospitals throughout California, recently accepted the challenge of meeting a staged statewide emergency. Barton was advised that a series of HazMat spills and associated terrorist activities had cut supply and communications capabilities across California.

As the Department of Homeland Security proposal wends its way through Congress and as the FBI warns us that a potential next terrorist target could well be hospitals, Barton Hospital initiated its annual emergency conditions drill. Appropriate timing. Almost immediately, El Dorado County Emergency Medical Services began arriving with contaminated critical care patients. The same was true with the California Conservation Corp, arriving with eight critically ill employees.

The Tahoe Amateur Radio Association was called and eight members, complete with a self-contained radio van, arrived on the scene. Parking the van adjacent to the hospital emergency entrance, communications were initiated between TARA members and hospital command staff. Following Federal Emergency Management Agency guidelines and setting up an Incident Command Post, TARA was able to initiate direct contact with Marshall Hospital in Placerville and, through various Radio Repeater Stations connections with all participating stations in California.

Following well-rehearsed procedures, the amateur radio operators were able to coordinate transfer of HazMat patients from Marshall to Barton, with Barton having up-front awareness of patient conditions and requirements. Marshall was made aware that Barton could handle only 22 of the 30 criticals because of bed space and staff. Without the ability to communicate, both Barton and Marshall would have been in an acute state of potential confusion. Marshall could have had critical patients in hallways, with Barton remaining with unused beds and qualified staff standing by to serve.

Since Sept. 11, we have become aware of the necessity for vigilance and prompt response. Terrorists are equipped with low tech interdiction methods of destruction. It is engrossing that a countermeasure to a loss of high tech communications avenues should be the airwaves — always available for use by amateur radio operators.

Paul Gulbro, president of the Tahoe Amateur Radio Association, said, “Members of TARA, along with ham radio operators around the world, have enjoyed this hobby for decades. Now, we are prepared, through continued schooling, to perform a most important communications function in emergency conditions. Whether a major forest fire or a calamity that we practice here today, amateur radio operators are ready.”

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