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medical emcomm?

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K7OPA's picture
medical emcomm?
I am looking for an example, presentation, or other detail of setting up or testing a MESH to support a medical disaster.  I have searched the forums and the net but not found anything.  We want to approach 2 regional hospitals with the idea to link them via a mesh network and provide emergency services in an emcomm situation.  Would like to show them an example of how it would work, what services could be provided, etc. Would be great to show if some other group has already set up a similar function.
Thanks in advance for any help,
Toxic Spill Exercise
We used mesh to support a recent toxic spill exercise.

Here is the report:

A toxic chemical spill occurred at PPG on Pittsburgh Dr, in the Delaware industrial district.
First responders responded from many townships and Delaware, as well as many other related agencies.
The Delaware County EMA EOC was activated, and ARES was asked to provide communications from the scene to the EOC.
We set up a portable station near the event, and were able to provide communications via the usual 2M FM repeater, but also for the first time using our mesh network.  The mesh network provided high quality video, telephone service, and email text messaging.  
One of our standard Field Day portable masts was set up to hold a 23dBi portable dish antenna (horizontally polarized to penetrate trees better), about 20 feet high, pointed at the EOC.  Fortunately we were able to set up at the edge of an open field, looking in the direction of the EOC, which is about 2 miles away.   The open field is several hundred yards across, with trees on the far side horizon.  
The hams present in the field besides myself were Paul Luft, Joe Penzera, Connie and Grant Skinner and Dale Bauer.
Dale brought his portable generator, which ran very nicely and quietly.  We had determined previously that our current batteries do not last typically long enough for an event like this.
We put up our ham radio banners between 2 small tripods, and also used one of them to hold the video camera. We
are very fortunate to have two excellent video cameras loaned by the Dayton mesh group.  The banners caused the camera to tilt somewhat, so we had to prop it up.  We need to use tripods with adjustable legs to compensate for uneven ground and loads. The same is true of the big tripod/mast used to support the dish antenna.  I made and brought a mast leveling kit which leveled the antenna perfectly.
We used a speakerphone telephone, so everyone could hear the conversations, and that worked well.  We need one for the EOC end also.  But we were unable to program its speed dial capabilities in the field, so that needs to be done at home.  Redial fixed that problem.  
A number of Responders and officials stopped by to talk with us and learn what we were doing.  They had no idea what hams can do, and were impressed.  A Sheriff officer said he needed 3 or 4 cameras to be set up by officers at
critical situations.  Not sure how to respond to that.
Connie Skinner very kindly brought cookies for everyone, and the Radnor Township responders provided coffee and water.
So we demonstrated that we can clearly do this.  But we will not be able to do it in every situation, if we cannot get to a location that is clear of trees.  We need to make further tests to see if the video works if it has to traverse multiple towers.  It takes significant personnel, effort and time to set up the portable dish on its mast. We need money to buy our own cameras, since the loaned cameras from Dayton need to be returned soon.  We need to complete our tower
installations, especially the 2 southern towers.

End of report.
All you guys with mountains may snivel at our efforts to go just 2 miles, but believe me that trees are a way of life in much of America, and we have to struggle
to get thru them.

Subsequent testing showed that we could get good video thru one intermediate tower node, but not 2.  And a water tower gave us a good reflected signal.

Image Attachments: 
Mesh and trees
I feel your pain with the trees.  Right now we are setting up a mesh in Linn County Oregon, we have good paths but are always fighting getting through the trees.
K7OPA's picture
Thanks so much - great report.

wa2ise's picture
In theory, 900MHz should get
In theory, 900MHz should get thru trees better, but I still can't get a connection of 2 miles to another node with some trees around on 900MHz.  Towers tall enough to get higher than trees would probably be too unwieldly...
Presentation to served agency.

It's like any other IT support effort.

First thing I would do is get principles from both hospitals in a room together (very important) and get a list of requirements started.

Once you do that and bounce it against what you know you can provide, then you can craft a presentation that will not oversell your capabilities (also very important).

I'm an IT professional for a very large, if not the largest, supplier of computers and associated equipment in the world. If we didn't start with a really complete set of requirements when we initiate a project we'd be dead in the water.

I really would not use any kind of a generic  presentation. This kind of thing should nearly always be tailored to the project at hand and the customer's needs.

It take a bit more effort but is well worth it. The customer gets what they need and you, importantly, come across as professionals.

I'd be happy to chat with you if you like.



Chuck Killian


kg9dw's picture
other ideas
I agree with Chuck. You could show them examples of messages being passed, either in an ICS format or just basic emails between to points. But better to talk to them first about what information needs to be passed between facilities during large scale events where traditional comms are down. 
W6GSW's picture
Los Angeles County EMS support

The Los Angeles Section of Amateur Radio Emergency Service ("ARESLAX") encompasses all of Los Angeles County, California, with its land area of more than 4000 square miles, and its more than 10 million residents.  ARESLAX is the largest ARES Section, and the only one comprised of a single county.

As its primary mission, ARESLAX provides backup and emergency communications support to the Los Angeles County Medical Alert Center and almost 70 hospitals throughout the County, including virtually all "911 receiving" hospitals (those with emergency departments).  ARESLAX is recognized as a formal component of the Los Angeles County Emergency Medical Services Agency Emergency Communications Plan.

The Los Angeles Emergency Communications Team ("LAECT") is a group of dedicated individuals committed to training and education related to emergency communications and management.  LAECT works cooperatively with ARESLAX and, for various reasons, our mesh efforts are being led by LAECT.  There is a significant overlap of participants between the two organizations.

At this time LAECT has its primary mesh installation at one hospital in Pasadena.  From there we are linked to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (W6JPL) and from there to Pleasants Peak, the Orange County mesh and beyond.  We provide mesh access to much of Pasadena and surrounding cities from the hospital and a few other sites.

Whenever we have the chance, we demonstrate the AREDN mesh and the enhanced capabilities it can provide to other hospitals and government entities.  Its a long and winding road.  It has taken us well over a year working with the one hospital to establish our "hub".  Installing permanent equipment at hospitals is a trying process, thanks to California oversight regulations.  But we have great hope!

Because we are currently supporting the defined mission, we understand what is needed, and how we can improve using mesh networking.  For our purposes we emphasize Winlink email for sending digital forms (using local Telnet post offices, in addition to full gateway access when appropriate), FTP for file transfer and VOIP to link various command centers.

Like many others, we have issues with trees.  Our larger problem, however, is the terrain, consisting of the numerous hills and valleys created by eons of seismic activity.  We are in earthquake country.

Gary, W6GSW
DEC, ARESLAX Northeast
KA6ECT Trustee


kg9dw's picture
Gary, can you share some more about how you use winlink for this mission? Do you provide hospital staff direct access to terminals to send messages?

K7OPA's picture

We continue to work on a simple connection between our rural hospital and a nearby (17miles) clinic.  One concern is how to keep the use of the system simple but robust.  We don't want to have to train local users on RMS Express or other apps if not necessary.  One idea is to set up a local NAS on the mesh, with specific folders, where users can drag and drop files without having to understand a lot of 'ham stuff'.  What is your opinion on this?

w6bi's picture
Our local hospital's initial
Our local hospital's initial requirement during a disaster/communications outage is to transfer a hospital status report (a simple 1-2 page PDF file) to County EMS.  We've decided that the file transfer function of MeshChat is good enough for starters.  We'll have them drop the fiel at a MeshChat server at the county government center.
They don't allow non-hospital equipment to be on the hospital LAN, so they'll have to "thumb-net" the file to the ham radio communications room, but they're OK with that for starters.
K7OPA's picture
Good idea - we will look into
Good idea - we will look into it.  We have a couple of hams who actually work in the hospital so we can make them control operators without someone from our outside group being on site.  However, most users are familiar with creating and saving files on a PC, fewer are familiar with Meshchat.  May require some training which we hoped to minimize.
Personal Opinion:
Personal Opinion:

There really is two ways to do this in my mind.  Each has advantages and disadvantages: I always see an operator needing to be present at the facility however to handle the system and ensure compliance.

Basically, the more you put on the served agency, the more training needs to be done by the way I figure it.

Served Agency operates the system:
Requires training of staff on how to properly use the features and programs.  Includes training on how to recognize a program is non functional and the need to switch over or to contact the radio operator to resolve.
Takes load off radio operator to actually generate and handle the content and moves load to advise the served agency on how to send the content they need.

Radio Operator operates the system:
Puts load to generate and track content on the operator
Reduces training to served agency (training only needs to really be "how to give info to the operator" )

Personally I don't expect being able to train served agencies on to much, I personally anticipate that the operator will be doing most of the content, the advantage is at least now it can be done in text (important for medical as accuracy matters) and be done as a "Send and wait" instead of sitting down and trying to get a clear voice frequency.

How info gets to the operator can very,  the served agency may setup an email account internally on their mails system for the operator.  May have a desk of computers that allow staff to type up messages and they display to the operator (who can then decide does this go via voice,  meshchat, winlink, etc)  or maybe its ICS forms on paper,  etc.  The methods are endless, the point is it gets to the operator and they can get it out to the appropriate location.

A new group can negotiate those methods with their served agency, an existing group likely already has these in place and will continue "as is" I suspect.

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