CHRISTUS St Vincent Among First to Test First Responder Telecommunications System April 27, 2017

CHRISTUS St. Vincent is testing a new cellular network that will allow first responders to avoid telecommunications overload during disasters.

During public safety emergencies, such as the 2011 Las Conchas wildfire, so many people attempt to call, text or livestream at once that landline and cellular phone systems become overwhelmed and fail. When that happens, first responders have difficulty communicating with medical facilities and each other. Enter FirstNet, a communications service created by the federal government solely for the use of first responders.

“FirstNet creates another 20 megahertz in the 700 megahertz frequency range,” says Jimm White, telecommunications administrator, systems and telecommunications, emergency management communications, at CHRISTUS St. Vincent. “This allows responders to talk when telecommunications systems are failing.”

New Mexico is one of five pilot sites beta testing FirstNet first responder cellular network in advance of its eventual nationwide rollout. CHRISTUS St. Vincent is the first hospital in New Mexico to help with the effort.

CHRISTUS St. Vincent will host a FirstNet cell site on its roof to provide access to the system from anywhere on the hospital campus. In the future, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) with the Santa Fe Fire Department will receive FirstNet devices that will allow them to livestream video from the field directly to the CHRISTUS St. Vincent emergency department (ED) and communicate with emergency medicine providers in real time.

“Using the FirstNet livestreaming capability, our physicians will be able to help EMTs triage patients on site, and they will have more time to prepare the ED for incoming patients,” Jimm says. “Physicians will also be able to remotely assess whether a patient should receive care at CHRISTUS St. Vincent, which is a Level III trauma center, or at a higher-level site. That will save precious time.”