Medical Care - PreHospital Communication

Communication with receiving hospitals will likely be limited at the onset of the disaster, although critical brief important information from the field can be beneficial in preparing the facility for incoming patients or decontamination needs and implementing their disaster plan and staffing to accommodate the inflow of patients and their special needs:

  • The type of incident
  • An estimated number of casualties?
  • Whether field decontamination has occurred?
  • An estimated time of arrival (ETA)?

While more information will be expected as time, available personnel and information allow this initial "heads up" brief report can facilitate a receiving facility's preparedness.  Thereafter, brief radio reports such as "30 year old male, Priority 1, deconned ETA 4 minutes” can assist in patient triage and flow and decrease unnecessary prolonged radio communications.  The importance of capability to communicate both intra-agency and interagency internally as well as externally to hospitals and dispatch centers cannot be overemphasized.

Traditionally, communications is an area of difficulty in natural or man-made disasters and planning for alternate means of communication allows for back up or alternate means when existing methods malfunction or are volume overloaded. Preplanning and exercises with testing of communications can illuminate gaps and areas of poor reception, interoperability/bandwidth issues as were seen on 9/11/2001. Evaluating for the ability of dispatch centers to patch various radio frequencies together to allow for communications has been studied and developed. Redundancy for radio failure may include traditional phone lines (landlines), cellular, satellite or amateur radio operators (HAMS) and computer based (internet) or facsimile means of communications as well as alternate sites in the event of loss of communications capability locally.

 Mutual aid agreements with written plans for assistance and reciprocity amongst various agencies, organizations and state and federal organizations help to expand human and material assets.  Extended or large-scale field rescue and recovery operations may require this redundancy of aid. Prolonged or extended incidents will require addressing and including the responders needs for: rest, rehabilitation, feeding and sheltering and communications capabilities in the operations plans. Developing these plans also requires knowledge of what type of equipment and personnel other agencies have to encourage a working knowledge and awareness of equipment, procedures and practice for enhanced interoperability and communications.

Back    Next

Back to MRT Table of Contents