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It’s said that timing is everything. Ruben Cuevas, Electrical Supervisor for Harbor UCLA Medical Center agreed, “Our timing for the upgrade could not have been better.”

In the weeks before the COVID 19 crisis hit, Cuevas was charged with updating the medical center’s two-way radio communication system. Harbor UCLA is one of five “Level 1” Trauma Centers located throughout Los Angeles County. The primary care facility is over 52,000 sq ft and the campus covers 72 acres.

The decision to upgrade was made shortly before stay at home orders were imposed in California. Cuevas recalled, “The reason we upgraded when we did is that we were experiencing dead spots around the campus, specifically in our basement area where we had little or no radio reception. During state surveys and inspections, when we needed the communications system the most, we just kept drawing blanks.”

Coverage areas with lots of steel and concrete structures as well as areas with natural geographic features can absorb and diminish radio signals. Before IP site-connect existed expanding coverage in this situation required an analog voter system to connect banks of repeaters together by utilizing phone lines and strategically placed antennas throughout the coverage area. In some circumstances enormous repeaters had to be installed. The systems were intrusive, expensive, and only as good as the existing phone lines.

The hospital knew they needed a system upgrade quickly. “One of the purchasers in our procurement department told us about SJM Radio. We invited them to bid and they had the best price,” said Cuevas. “They’ve been great. We’re very pleased.”

Anthony Doukas, SJM Radio, Sales Manager explained, “Harbor UCLA needed 200 digital radios and a system that would cover the entire campus. We suggested XPR 3500e radios and an IP site connect system with two banks of repeaters. Doukas added, “Today Harbor UCLA has a system that provides crystal clear transmission, increased capacity and full coverage.”

“We have a total of 5 repeaters on the 2nd floor penthouse and 5 repeaters in the basement,” explained Cuevas, “and the coverage is seamless.”

The goal of the upgrade was to provide reliable coverage throughout their Carson Campus and SJM met that challenge. UCLA also has satellite facilities one in Long Beach some 12 miles away. To his surprise Cuevas discovered, “We can communicate with Long Beach. We didn’t expect it, but it was a nice bonus that we got two-way communication with another one of our facilities.”

This difference in signal range illustrates both the power and the limits of electromagnetic signals. Radio signals within the Harbor campus could not reach the basement because of concrete and steel barriers. When no such barriers exist the same radio signals can travel very long distances. Which is why we can communicate with astronauts in space, but that’s another story.

When SJM arrived to install the new equipment, COVID-19 cases had begun showing up at the Medical Center and that meant the SJM installer/technicians were required to wear Personal Protective Equipment during installation. PPE is used to protect both the hospital environment and technicians. When the installation was complete they conducted a site survey to measure signal strength in areas that were previously dead zones and the new system performed flawlessly.

About the time the new system was activated, Cuevas got the news that the hospital was preparing to move into “triage” mode requiring construction of a tent facility outside the main hospital to screen patients at the intake point. “We had to provide communications between the triage area and the main hospital. The new system was able to handle it with no problems.”

Harbor UCLA’s triage has not been utilized. The numbers of new cases are still dangerously high in LA County. But they are ready if things change. “We learned valuable lessons by going through this exercise. It takes a lot of cooperation and coordination to build a triage structure and make it functional. Now we know how to do that quickly,” said Cuevas.

When you have a reliable two-way radio system, it means one less critical service you have to worry about. Cuevas agrees, “SJM did exactly what they said they would. Anthony returned my calls and emails quickly, even after hours. The installation went smoothly…the two-way radios work perfectly. They’re our go to radio guys now.”

The virus is still with us. Health and safety concerns need to stay in forefront in everyone’s mind. It’s good to know that Level 1 Trauma Centers like Harbor UCLA have rapid response plans in place to be able to increase their capacity quickly should the numbers increase as the region begins to re-open.

Reliable two-way radio communication is essential. If your system needs an upgrade don’t put it off. Call us for a free consultation and let us know how we can help.

SJM Radio – Experience you can trust

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