St John Ambulance is the nation's leading supplier of first aid training, having taught a massive 800,000 people last year. They are a major UK Charity supplying a wide range of services including event and emergency support. At this year’s London Marathon, for example, St John Ambulance had 1,200 volunteers working alongside the event’s own medical team and staff of the London Ambulance Service. Many public events in the UK would not be possible without their support.
Two way radio communications is vital to help to co-ordinate these operations and other events around the capital. St John Ambulance’s own London Region communications team is responsible for their communication infrastructure in the capital, the team is also responsible for its new Command and Control Vehicle. Formerly belonging to the London Ambulance Service this vehicle has been adapted and re-equipped by the team and features Icom analogue and digital two way radio equipment including VHF/UHF repeaters, mobiles and handportables. The Command and Control Vehicle vehicle provides the region with the ability to travel, to provide stand alone coverage for events.
Chris Phillips, Regional Communications Officer for the London region said, 'The Command & Control vehicle plays an important role and is used at a lot of events as the main control centre. However operations at the largest events are normally run from a desk at the main London Ambulance control room, but the command and control vehicle is always ready to take over just in case the need arises.'
The Command & Control vehicle is primarily divided into equipment racks and operator stations:
The operator stations feature Icom VHF and UHF radio control heads, two computer screens and a telephone. The main units of the radios are housed in racks. Operators use either Icom IC-F5062 VHF or IC-F6062 UHF radios depending on the event. The operators use a management system called DIPS (Duty and Information Planning System) to record all radio messages including 999 calls, vehicle movements etc. The vehicle has an on-board satellite terminal providing broadband internet connection to link the on-board workstations with DIPS. To build resilience into the vehicle, a 3G wireless router in the racks from two broadband providers provides a quick and effective means of establishing a connection.
In the equipment racks, there are two Icom repeaters, IC-F5100 VHF & IC-F6100 UHF. These may be used to provide local communication coverage at smaller events. They connect to antennas on a telescopic mast at the back of the vehicle. A second mast on the vehicle supports a CCTV camera which provides the crew with a bird’s eye view of the scene outside to help in assessing a developing situation. For wide-area radio coverage, the van’s crew normally communicate via PMR repeaters located at various sites around the capital.
A bank of Icom handheld radios is stored on the vehicle for resilience. The communication team are phasing in Icom IC-F3162 VHF/UHF dPMR digital radios as part of plan to move wholly to digital, but at present the radios are being operated in analogue mode for backward compatibility with existing equipment.'
Chris said, 'Radio comms are critical to the work we do. We need to ensure that we dispatch the right resources to a call in quick time to prevent a patient’s condition worsening. We have looked at other means of communication but we find that radios are easier to use.’
He added, 'Everyone in my team is a volunteer and all have full time jobs. We do it, because we are passionate about the service…there is a great satisfaction of giving something back to the community...trust me, I have been doing this for 25 years.'
If you are interested in finding more about the work of St John Ambulance, looking to join or donating to the charity, please visit: http://www.sja.org.uk