Wireless Intercom Systems Play Critical Role in Disaster Recovery Communications

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New study finds communication breakdown to be a key issue -- Wireless Intercom System twofold answer to poor radio communications and inadequate overhead intercom system.

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is a good way to for the hospital staff in suits to communicate to their team leader several hundred feet away that ‘we’re sending two victims to you’ or ‘We need some help out on the street’.

Events such as the Southeast Asian tsunami, Pakistan earthquake, Hurricane Katrina and the flooding of New Orleans, have highlighted the vital importance of strengthening disaster preparedness worldwide, particularly disaster recovery communications. To illuminate these events, a disaster has been defined as “a natural or manmade force, the destructive impact of which overwhelms a community’s ability to meet healthcare demands.”

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality recently published an evidence report titled “Training of Hospital Staff to Respond To A Mass Casualty Incident.” It summarized twenty-one recent studies that range from descriptions of local preparedness drills (including transportation incidents and fires), to a large regional drill involving multiple agencies.

One of the points identified in the research was that internal and external communications are the key to effective disaster response. Eight of the studies illustrated a breakdown of disaster recovery communications, including the inadequacy of overhead intercom systems, a lack of training in the use of radio communications, and emergency departments becoming overwhelmed and unable to receive messages.

Alan Goldstein, a member of the Disaster Preparedness Committee and Director of Audio Visual and Medical Photography at Sherman Oaks Hospital in California was tasked to find a solution. “I searched trade shows for a wireless intercom solution and found the PortaCom Pro from Anchor Audio,” he says. “These are now a standard part of our decontamination suits. Before the helmet is put on, the headset and micrograph are attached to a belt or pocket and turned on.”

Goldstein believes the PortaCom Pro wireless intercom system “is a good way to for the hospital staff in suits to communicate to their team leader several hundred feet away that ‘we’re sending two victims to you’ or ‘We need some help out on the street’.”

Hospitals like Sherman Oaks and St. Josephs are part of a network of Disaster Resource Centers across the United States that is working to improve overall disaster preparedness. The U.S. government report on training hospital staff to respond to mass casualty incidents (MCI’s) collected its evidence from studies in many of these hospitals. Some key lessons on disaster recovery communications emerged from the summaries in the report:

· For internal communications, overhead intercom systems may be unreliable during an MCI.

· The presence of a well-defined incident command system reduces confusion during exercises.

· Important telephone numbers and staff contact information must be updated on a regular basis and readily available in the event of an MCI.

· Staff must be trained to use various modes of communication (e.g., radio communications, telephones).

· For external communications, drills and tabletop exercises may be an effective method of improving interfaces between hospitals and federal, state, and local response agencies.

· The process of decision-making by conference calls can be inefficient and may lead to delays in taking action.

· Radio communication is an effective backup to land lines.

Disaster preparedness has taken on increased importance at local, state, and federal levels. And just as communication is the lifeblood of our daily relationships, disaster recovery communications is at the heart of successful emergency response in the face of disaster.

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Heather Metcalfe
POWER PR
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