In some hospitals across the United States, it is desirable and necessary to include amateur radio communications in the emergency departments, to aid with disasters and mass casualty incidents.  When a major disaster becomes a reality, history has proven that the first things to fail are the cell phones and followed shortly by fire, police, & ambulance radios, due to too many people trying to use a hand-full of frequencies and no interoperability.  Failure of communications compounds the disaster.

 Since 9/11, hospital administrators and emergency coordinators have been advised to include amateur radio as part of their back-up plan.  Amateur radio is independent from all other sources, they have a trillion dollars worth of frequencies for their private use, and volunteers ready to help at a moments notice.

 When Pella Regional Health Center was contacted about our desire to erect an amateur radio antenna on their building, we were greeted with open arms and they went out of their way to help us with what ever we needed (it probably also helped that we told them that it wasn’t going to cost them a dime).

This is the Pella Hospital as it looked in 2007. A Comet CX-333 tri-band antenna was chimney mounted on top of the penthouse (barely visible, just to the right of the American flag) and LM-400 (about 150’) was run to the emergency department directors office, about 25’ from the ED nurses station.

 Our antenna jack and outlet were available underneath a small table in the director’s office. All red outlets are connected to the emergency generator line.

A new building project was initiated and this includes a new emergency department.  We were contacted and requested to attach onto our present coax and continue the run to the new ED.  They said the antenna has to stay at its’ present location.  The bottom line is that we calculated a 15.5 dB loss.  I believe that means 50 watts out of the transceiver and about 1.5 watts out of the antenna.  The following is how we solved the problem.....

 This is the penthouse and that is our antenna on the right side of the chimney.  The hospital wanted the antenna to stay at its original location and on the picture on the right, that’s our antenna in the foreground and the control point will be located on the far side of the building in the background.  We calculated about 15.5 db loss if we ran coax from the antenna to the control point.

The first thing we did, was remove all the coax.  The photograph on the left shows Dennis Hoffman, KA0UKA, looking for and fishing all the coax through the ceiling from the antenna to the control point in the old Emergency Department.  On the right, Dennis is preparing the new coax for a pl-251.  Dennis is the Marion County Emergency Coordinator for the amateur radio community.

This is Jim Emmert, WB0URW, attaching the coax to the antenna.  On the right, you can see that the antenna PL-251 was wrapped tightly with electrical tape and then the top and bottom of the connector are secured with ties.  The ends of the tape are both on the top part of the PL-251 and the tie will prevent them from letting go.

  1. After the antenna is securely mounted to the mast, the coax is secured to the mast with cable ties (left).  On the right, cable claps are screwed into the chimney, to secure the coax to the chimney surface.

This is the finished job, with the coax securely attached to the chimney.  This installation will easily withstand the dramatic changes between Iowa summer and winter weather.

We located an old coax entry pipe, next to the chimney.  When we disassembled the cap, there were 5 strands of coax that were cut off at the pipe cap.  We were given permission to use this as our entry into the pent-house, which made it possible for a 25 ft run from antenna to transceiver.   A rain-cap and a drip-loop on the coax should insure no water entering the pent-house from this location.

Inside the pent-house, this is a view of the chimney and all the cell phone equipment, which is attached to it.  The flat platform is the top of the elevator shaft and we chose the area, right around the corner, to install our equipment.  We pull our AC power from the electrical box, right underneath the brown pipes.  This next closest power source is about 30 feet away.

We need a good grounding system for our antenna so we chose a steel beam, which is attached to the chimney and is attached to the galvanized steel roof.  An MFJ lightning protector is bolted to the steel beam with braided cable and coax is attached to the lightning protector.

Jim Emmert, WB0URW, sits on top of the elevator shaft and prepares to install the cross-band repeater.  You can see that there is a lot of empty space and when the repeater is installed, will be out of site and out of mind, from 99% of the maintenance activity that occurs in this room.

The cross-band repeater is a Kenwood TS-742 transceiver with only 2-meter and 70 cm installed.  This unit is Velcro onto an Astron power supply and is grounded via braided copper wire from chassis to chassis.  These units then were place on top of a heavy-duty plastic drawer, which contains extra fuses, the microphone, and identification papers.  The transceiver was set to high power, which are 50 watts on 2-meter and 35 watts on 70 cm.  On some initial testing, my XYL was 20 miles East and I was 12 miles North and had a full quieting QSO through this repeater.  After more testing, there is a good chance that we will lower the output power on both bands in order to extend the duty cycle and the life of the rig.

The finished installation, powered-up and running.

Pella Regional Health Center was contacted and they accepted our offer to install an antenna system at their facility, to be used in the event of a multi casualty incident (MCI). PRHC had just completed construction of a new emergency department and ambulance garage and it was decided to construct our control point in the EMT room, which is connected directly to the ambulance garage. During an multi-casualty incident (MCI), the hospital's triage team will station in the garage, so they will be able to obtain patient information, before they arrive.

This is the amublance garage. The double doors on the right, are the entry into the emergency department. The open door is the EMT room which is our control point. This location is ideal for handling an MCI.
This is the control point inside the EMT room. During an MCI, the hospital's triage team would be stationed right outside the door, where they can get patient information, prior to the ambulance arrival.

Above is Dennis Hoffman, KA0UKA, dressing coax for the wall plate, in the EMT room.

The completed antenna wall plate, at right.

Left, Jim Emmert, WB0URW, finishes connecting the antenna in the drop ceiling. Center shows access to antenna, electrical, and data ports. At right is our control point which includes a Kenwood TM-D700 and an astron SS-25M. This with the digital telephone is connected to the hospital's emergency generator.

Believe it or not, this is what we had to do with our antenna. We got a dual-band, mag mount antenna and the hospital was pretty emphatic about not having an antenna visable from the outside. That was not a problem until we realized that the EMT room right next to the X-ray rooms. We were surrounded by lead, which tends to impede all levels of electromagnetic waves. We ended up sticking the antenna upside down in the garage, which at least gave us access to the cross-band repeater and local repeater.

One thing we know about hospitals is that they are always in a state of change. We have been moving our equipment around this facility and we are not done. The new facility included a "radio room" in the basement and we have been informed that the hospital would prefer to have our cross-band repeater located there. The negative aspect of this move means that we will have 100 feet of coax running to our antenna instead of 25 feet. The control point, dual-band antenna is also being impeded by all the metal inside the garage and our intent is to locate this antenna outside the garage, where the public cannot see it. Stay tuned for further up-dates!