Cell phones to the rescue when weather woes hit

Emergency, on-call staff affected

Cell phones replaced land-based pagers at Richland Hospital in Richland Center, WI, when the area was hit by severe storms and flooding in late August.

"Like any technology, you can't always depend on ground-based communication, says Chuck Aber, MBA, senior assistant administrator and CFO. "The land-based medical pager antenna took an electrical hit and reduced the capacity to transmit the signal as far as it normally can.

"Cell phones are improving all the time, so we tried to evaluate whether cell phones or the land-based pagers should be used, and we decided that the cell phone signal was stronger," Aber adds. "So for a few days we converted to cell phones to contact staff in emergency situations."

Because of the flooding, the medical pager antenna could not be serviced for about five days, he notes.

"We communicated to certain physicians and staff who are on call on a daily basis for emergency situations and surgery that we would depend on cell phones," Aber says.

While the admission process at the hospital remained unchanged during the severe weather, he adds, the community was kept informed through radio and the efforts of a local government emergency group.

"We did an evaluation with the county emergency group to be aware of road closings so we could communicate to the community as far as providing information about road closures and alternate routes," Aber says.