An update from the National Ambulance Resilience Unit and Excelerate Technology Ltd

The next generation Incident Ground Technology (IGT) solution for the NHS ambulance service’s Hazardous Area Response Teams (HART) has been commissioned by the National Ambulance Resilience Unit (NARU) and is now available to individual NHS ambulance trusts for implementation in accordance with their own equipment replacement schedules.

The design and development of this new, technologically-advanced incident communications solution follows a review of HART’s existing capability, taking into account the views of operational staff and assessment of the many thousands of calls attended by HART since its inception in 2008.

“The communication elements will provide the HART Team Leader with considerably more detail from staff committed into the inner cordon and will increase our ability to monitor the condition of our patients. Moving to an adaptable and portable solution increases the flexibility of deployment allowing HART staff to take their IGT solution with them wherever or however they deploy.”

– Gerry Byrne, Head of Capabilities, NARU

HART teams are involved in a wide range of life threatening and high pressure situations across the key areas of Incident Response Unit (IRU), Urban Search & Rescue (USAR), Inland Water Operations (IWO), Tactical Medical Operations (TMO) and an increasingly developing preparedness in terrorist-related incidents including Marauding Terrorist Firearms Attack (MTFA).

Operating across a wide range of scenarios presents different challenges and communications requirements, which have been carefully assessed and evaluated as part of the new IGT solution requirement.

HART’s activity in Inland Water Operations (IWO), for example, has been busy and intense, as seen on the Somerset levels during the winter of 2013/4 and again in the North of England in December 2015. Serious and widespread flooding events such as these are likely to re-occur and the IGT provision has had to adapt to support the work and the risks involved.

The current vehicle-based IGT solution has served HART well, but looking to the future – with HART’s expanded operational areas, evolving user requirements and the availability of new technologies – the next generation IGT solution marks a significant shift in direction towards a more flexible and agile communications capability.

“Excelerate has developed the most fit for purpose portable solution in line with HART’s evolving needs. We look forward to continuing to work with the HART teams, providing them with the very best resilient communications capability with applications to help them manage critical incidents in a way that enhances their own safety as well as public protection and patient care.”

– David Savage, CEO, Excelerate Technology

The package has been designed with high mobility and ease of use in mind to support HART clinicians at the heart of the response, where their primary role is to provide critical medical intervention – giving casualties the best chance of survival.

“The new IGT solution has been developed in tandem with an updated safe system of work for HART teams.  Its application will improve the safety of responders and enhance the quality of care provided to casualties caught in the most challenging of situations.” 

– Christian Cooper, Compliance Officer, NARU

So what does it do?

The new IGT solution enables teams to quickly and easily deploy a secure and resilient communications infrastructure exactly where it’s needed, via a versatile portable data network. This central communications hub, custom-designed into a ruggedised wheeled protective case application can be flexibly transported and deployed by one person.

The ‘set up and go’ capability of the portable data network involves limited human intervention and instantaneously creates a 1000m communications bubble in every direction.

The innovative, rapidly deployable network enables real time data, video and voice transfer even in the most extreme and challenging incidents. Operating completely independently of a vehicle, this new capability offers distinct advantages where dependence on a vehicle is difficult – such as in flood events – or limiting, such as in fast moving firearms incidents.

The portable data network or ‘Command Pod’ designed using LTE, the leading edge communications technology behind 4G, has been developed into a high performing solution by the solution provider, Excelerate Technology Ltd.

Upon deployment the portable data network can facilitate live camera, voice and data streams within an incident ground and onward transmission to approved locations via secure access to the internet.

This highly resilient solution allows for communication over multiple bearers – Wi-Fi, 3G/4G, LTE as well as managed satellite communications via Excelerate Technology’s Enhanced Resilience Satellite Network (ERSN) deployed via a portable satellite terminal. This ensures “always on” communications, giving teams access to critical data, video and voice applications at all times.

For additional resilience the solution also offers a back up voice capability via a ruggedized smartphone handset with an integrated push to talk (PTT) switch box. This operates over the secure and private LTE network independently of Airwave provision.

With ESN and ESMCP compatibility, the next generation IGT solution supports HART in providing mutual aid alongside a range of co-responding agencies throughout the UK, now and into the future.

Integrated camera solutions for real time video streaming

The solution features a number of deployable camera assets that have been integrated to support situational awareness through real time video, streaming direct from the incident ground. These include:

  • Body worn cameras deployed on staff in the inner cordon to capture and transmit live video to Team Leaders or other remote locations.
  • Static, deployable cameras that are tripod mountable allowing a fixed view of a specific area to be shared, such as a casualty collection point.
  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV’s) provide a 360 degree aerial view to support enhanced emergency surveillance, monitoring and for managing ground team safety.

With the integration of COFDM transmission technology, (Coded Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing, a modulation scheme that divides a single digital signal across 1,000 or more signal carriers simultaneously) teams can achieve real time video sharing even in high signal loss environments such as within buildings, underground or in mountainous areas.

Enabling effective monitoring & control

HART Team Leaders can monitor and control all aspects of an incident from one place with Excelerate’s Digital Dashboard Management Interface (DDMI). Integrated into HART’s new IGT solution and already in wide use across the emergency services, DDMI combines all systems and solutions into a single user interface that automates many functions for simple and effective operation.

In the field, HART Team Leaders can access DDMI via ruggedized tablet computers, enabling them to receive, transmit and monitor video and critical data in real time including the vital signs of operatives through a fully integrated physiological monitoring system.