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South Australian Ambulance Service (SAAS)

The S.A. Ambulance Service (SAAS) uses the S.A. Government Radio Network (SAGRN) for all metro and most regional communications. A purpose built communications centre was opened in December 2003 at the S.A. Ambulance headquarters building in Eastwood, the centre has been equipped with state of the art technology to facilitate the transition from the previous VHF radio network to the SAGRN.

At 2000 hours on the 11/11/2014 the SA Ambulance Service switched all of their radios to the digital mode, these talkgroups are also fully encrypted and can no longer be monitored on a scanner.

SAAS Comms Centre
SAAS Emergency Operations Centre dispatch console

Ambulances are fitted with an XTL 2500 digital mobile GRN radio and two XTS 2500 portable radios. These radios are P25 digital compliant and have DES-OFB 128 bit encryption modules fitted.

Talkgroup layout in these radios consists of four blocks talkgroups;

Block 1 - Existing SAAS analogue channel plan
Block 2 - Digital encrypted - Motorola Astro (combined SAAS + SA Health channel plan)
Block 3 - Digital encrypted - Open standard P25 (combined SAAS and SA Health channel plan)
Block 4 - Multi agency and national simplex frequencies

 

All SAAS vehicles are also fitted with a Motorola Mobile Data Terminal (MDT). These provide paramedics with a range of in-vehicle applications including incident dispatch and mapping functions tightly integrated with the South Australia Computer Aided Dispatch (SACAD) system. It also provides paramedics real-time access to details of emergency incidents and related information, removing the reliance on time-consuming voice communications. The MDT system commuicates via the Telstra Next G mobile broadband network.

SAAS MDT Network

 

SAAS MDT
A Motorola MDT is fitted to all SAAS vehicles - Picture courtesy Adelaide Now

 

The SAAS Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) has been fitted out with nineteen Motorola Centracom consoles, nine are used for dispatch and five are in a separate training / special operations room. From the console the operator can access radio and telephone functions as well as logging vehicle movements and taking emergency telephone calls. Some of the dispatch desks have electric raise and lower capabilities for increased operator comfort.

SAAS Emergency Operations Centre
SAAS Emergency Operations Centre dispatch console

All communications for the state are handled through the Adelaide communications centre. Previously regional communications centers handled their own radio traffic, however the Riverland communications facility was closed in November 2002, the Mount Gambier centre in December 2003, and the North West comcen closed on December 10th 2004.

Motorola XTS2500

A number of talkgroups are used for dispatching emergency and non emergency taskings, as well as hospital consults and helicopter retrievals. The metropolitan ambulances are split amongst four talkgroups between 0700 and 2300 hours, between 2300 and 0700 all northern crews use Metro North 02 and the southern crews use Metro South 03.

Metro North - Talkgroup 2

Gawler, Playford, Redwood Park, Salisbury, Campbelltown

 

Metro South - Talkgroup 3

Aldinga, McLaren Vale, Noarlunga (including SL104), O’Halloran Hill, Marion, Mitcham, Camden Park, Ashford, Stirling

 

Metro Central North - Talkgroup 10

Prospect, Port Adelaide, Sprint H703 and H704 day and H713 and H714, PA50 & PA56, Fulham

 

Metro Central South - Talkgroup 11

Brooklyn Pk, Parkside, Sprint Sprint H701 and H702 day and H711 and H712, ALL ECP units

 

The metropolitan ambulance transfer service (ATS – non emergency transfers) are tasked on talkgroup 14 METRO ATS.

Country ambulances operating south of the city across to the Riverland and down to the South East of the state operate on talkgroup 71 SE TASK 1. Ambulances north of  Gawler and in the western areas of the state are coordinated on 81 NW TASK 1. For major incidents, or extended liaison talkgroup 79 SE SPECIAL INCIDENT and talkgroup 89 NW SPECIAL INCIDENT are used.

The S.A. Ambulance service is also responsible for the coordination and dispatch of the state rescue helicopters, they operate on talkgroup 51 HELICOP TRK, they also have allocated to them SAAS simplex channel 52 HELICOP SPX (411.975 mhz) and VHF marine channel 88 (157.425 mhz) for situations where close range communications are required.

The Medstar retrieval service is coordinated through the SAAS EOC, and utilise the talkgroup 15 ADMIN STAFF

 

Dispatch

The SA Ambulance Service utilise a dispatch system called 'Medical Priority Dispatch System' (MPDS). This process starts with the dispatcher asking the caller key questions. These questions allow the dispatchers to categorize the call by chief complaint and set a determinant level ranging from A (Minor) to E (Immediately Life Threatening) relating to the severity of the patient's condition.

An example of how the SA Ambulance call taking and dispatch system works can be seen in this short video.

All calls for assistance made to the ambulance service are categorized according their nature and priority, the category placed on each tasking is relayed to the ambulance crew as the job is given out over the radio advising them of the urgency of the call.

Category

Assessment

Lights & Sirens used

1

Failed primary assessment, life threatening, two ambulances (minimum 4 paramedics) automatically dispatched

Yes

2

Failed secondary assessment, possibly life threatening

Yes

4

Routine job, active treatment required

No

5

Routine job, possible treatment required

No

6

Transfer, treatment required, patient stable

No

7

Transfer, observation required

No

8
Transfer, no treatment required
No
9

Crewing station, change/standby at location

No

 

Paging

Once the incident details are known the job is dispatched to the crew using the South Australian Computer Aided Dispatch (SACAD) system. This system provides an interface between MPDS, the MDT data network and the SAGRN paging system used to alert Ambulance crews.

Career stations are staffed 24 hours a day and all crews carry a pager, this recieves basic job information from the dispatcher, the crew then call up on air using their SAGRN radio to acknowledge that they have received the details on the MDT fitted to their vehicle.

The on-call volunteers carry a pager and can remain at home and only need to respond to the ambulance station when paged, some of the busier volunteer stations (Goolwa, Mallala, Mt Pleasant etc) do however often remain at the station until called.

A pager message is generated using the format below:

Crew Callsign

Priority

Notes

Address

Map Ref.

Event # / Case #

Dispatch Time

MPDS Code

BE71

PR: 7

: @BEHL

LOT 603 CORNWALL ST BERRI

SBI 1 F 7

D0489

Disp: 14:19

DISCHARGE

BP71

PR: 2

: 3 CAR MVA

188 MARION RD RICHMOND

129 D3

D0111

Disp: 08:30

HEALTH CARE

 

The first example is a transfer case from Berri Hospital (alias @BEHL). The second is a motor vehicle accident case, referred to SAAS by a health-care practitioner (Nurse, Doctor or Paramedic).

MPDS codes

Code

Chief Complaint

Code

Chief Complaint

1

Abdominal Pain/Problems

20

Heat/Cold Exposure

2

Allergic Reactions/Animal Stings/Envenomation

21

Hemorrhage/Lacerations

3

Animal Bite

22

Inaccessible Incident/Entrapments

4

Assault/Sexual Assault

23

Overdose/Poisoning (Ingestion)

5

Back Pain (Non-Traumatic/Non-Recent)

24

Pregnancy/Childbirth/Miscarriage

6

Breathing Problems

25

Psychiatric/Suicide Attempt

7

Burns/Explosions

26

Sick Person

8

Carbon Monoxide/Inhalation/HazMat

27

Stab/Gunshot/Penetrating Trauma

9

Cardiac or Respiratory Arrest/Death

28

C.V.A (Stroke)

10

Chest Pain

29

Traffic/Transportation Accidents

11

Choking

30

Traumatic Injuries

12

Convulsions/Seizures

31

Unconscious (Near)

13

Diabetic Problems

32

Unknown Problem (Man Down)

14

Drowning/Diving/SCUBA Accident

RTVL

MedSTAR Retrieval Escort

15

Electrocution/Lightning

DISCH

Discharge Transfer

16

Eye Problems/Injuries

ADM

Admission Transfer

17

Falls

TFR

Inter-Facility Transfer/Palliative Care

18

Headache

OPD

Out-patient Department Transfer

19

Heart Problems/A.I.C.D.

HCP

Health-care Practitioner Referral

36

Flu-Like Symptoms

ESO

Emergency Support Override

VM

Vehicle Movement

CD

Call Direct

Callsigns

Vehicle call signs are assigned at the start of a shift, generally call signs consist of the name of the station the crew is from followed by a number identifying their start time and another number designating their vehicle status. An 0700 starting emergency shift from Marion station would have the call sign Marion 71, an 1800 starting shift from Mitcham would be Mitcham 181. An ATS crew from Noarlunga starting at 0700 would be Noarlunga 77.

The last number in the call sign identifies what type of ambulance the crew have.

Last number identifier Crew type
No number Emergency
1 Emergency
2 Emergency
3 Emergency
4 Emergency
5 Ambulance Transport Service Plus (two ATS officers with Certificate 4 BEC training)
6 Ambulance Transport Service Plus (two ATS officers with Certificate 4 BEC training)
7 Ambulance Transport Service Plus (two ATS officers with Certificate 4 BEC training)
8 Ambulance Transport Service (Shift starting on the hour)
9 Ambulance Transport Service (Shift starting on the half hour)
   
40 / 400 Sporting standbys / Level 4 volunteer crews that cannot transport patients
88 Volunteer on call crew

Other call signs heard are:

Sierra Oscar Special Operations Team
Hotel Mike Hills / Murray duty managers - Regional team  leaders in the Adelaide Hills and Murray lands
Mike Delta Metro shift manager, normally one North and one South
Oscar November Operations North managers - Regional team leaders in the North / West areas of the state
Oscar Charlie Operations Central managers - Regional team leaders in the Central areas of the state
Oscar Sierra Operations South managers - Regional team leaders in the South East / Riverland area
Delta Romeo Doctors
Delta Tango Driver training vehicles
Alpha Mike Area Manager
Oscar Mike Operations Managers
Charlie Sierra Clinical Support Officers
Mike Hotel Assessment & Crisis Intervention Service (ACIS) Mental Health teams
Papa Sierra Psychiatric Transfer Assistant
Lima Sierra Lateral Area Team leader South
Lima Whiskey Lateral Area Team leader West
Lima Echo Lateral Area Team leader East
Limo November Lateral Area Team leader North
Hotel 7** Single Paramedic Rapid Intervention Team (SPRINT)
Hotel 4** Single responder from Eastwood Headquarters
Bravo 60* Pushbike patrols
Bravo 7** Motorcycle patrols
Delta Tango Driver Training
Lima Tango Ambulance Transport Service - Team Leader
Echo Charlie Extended Care Paramedic

SAAS Infection Control Precautions and Cleaning

Often abbreviated on the radio to P1 - L1
 

Precautions:
P1  Contact
P2  Contact, Droplet, Eye
P3  Contact, Droplet, Eye, Non Pregnant
P4  Contact, Droplet, Eye, Airborne
P5  Contact, Droplet, Eye, Airborne, Immunity
P6  Droplet, Eye
P7  Contact, Immunity
P8  Airborne
P9  Droplet, Eye, Airborne

Cleaning:
Level 1  Use detergent and water to clean stretcher and all surfaces in ambulance touched by patient or crew.
Level 2  Use detergent and water the appropriate disinfectant solution to clean stretcher and all surfaces in ambulance touched by patient or crew.
Level 3  Use detergent and water to clean stretcher and all surfaces in ambulance.
Level 4  Air ambulance and use detergent and water to clean stretcher and all surfaces in ambulance.
Level 5  Air ambulance and use detergent and water then appropriate disinfectant solution to clean stretcher and all surfaces in ambulance


SAAS Vehicle Radios
Old radio layout - GME UHF CB / MCS2000 GRN / FM 900 VHF

Updated 12/11/14

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