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Is Radio a Necessity in EMS and Hospital Emergency Communications?

Contact: Andrew Birnbaum
P: 201-313-7075
F: 201-313-5671


Ridgefield, NJ — Hospitals, EMS, and other organizations are increasingly wondering if two-way radios are becoming obsolete, and if they are an unnecessary expenditure. When budgets become tight, it may be tempting to cut funding for radios and just use cell service instead. But this thinking is not without risk.


Radios are the only real backup when cell and commercial communications go down. 


It is true that many EMS personnel now use cell phones at critical junctures, and cell phones work the majority of the time. In addition, cell phones offer multimedia features that aren’t available on two-way radios. However, cell service is not always available or convenient. The new FirstNet service, by AT&T, for first responders is working to ensure constant cellular connection. This means creating a service that will be able to sustain itself through harsh weather conditions and include rural areas that often lack a connection. Ultimately, commercial carrier service  is at risk to to fail when it’s needed most.  Radios are still an essential part of EMS and hospital emergency communications, with no exceptions. Even though cell phones are prevalent, EMS, fire, rescue, and police professionals still find that radios are the best tool in the broadest range of emergencies.

Radios allow split second communication, which is important in nearly all situations and crucial in fires or natural disasters. It may not take long to look up a number on a cell phone and dial, but those few seconds could make a big difference in an emergency. In addition, since public safety radios are specifically designed for emergency personnel, they have features that aren’t available in a consumer cell phone. For example, radios can send emergency alerts back to the base if the EMS personnel are in trouble. They also allow users to communicate with multiple people simultaneously, which is difficult to do with a cell phone.

Dispersed, large-scale disasters, such as floods, fires, hurricanes, and earthquakes, can overwhelm and overload cell phone networks. In the absence of FirstNet, cell phones may not be usable in these scenarios, which means that EMS personnel will have trouble making the calls that they need to make unless they have access to a radio.

In addition, radios have a longer battery life and are more rugged than cell phones, making them more reliable for longer periods and less susceptible to breaking.

Public Safety has learned that having back up communications is essential. Radio communications can work standalone or work as a backup to other technologies. It is generally recommended to combine both radio and cellular or broadband technologies in order to ensure there is always a communication option available. This ensures that emergency professionals always have the ability to communicate. The cost of maintaining both types of communications modalities are necessary in order to keep emergency professional and the public safe.

Many organizations mandate that P25-related interoperability protocols are followed, so that local radio systems can interoperate with other P25 systems. In addition, many states require two-way radios for emergency communication systems. Some, like New York, even require both two-way radios and a backup for every emergency response vehicle. These considerations must all be taken into account when considering any changes to an emergency communication system.

GD’s solutions have the capability to work with radio, cellular, broadband, and FirstNet. They allow hospitals to answer ambulance calls remotely via mobile device anywhere in the ED. No matter what the situation is, GD ensures your emergency communications are managed quickly and efficiently regardless of the method, for the best possible patient care.

About CAREpoint & e-Bridge

Responsive Innovations include the CAREpoint Workstation used by hospital emergency departments to manage all EMS-hospital communications on a single interoperable, easy-to-use device and e-Bridge Mobile Telemedicine apps, which enable the sharing of real-time, HIPAA-compliant multi-media messaging – voice, text, pictures, video clips and live video as well as data from connected devices such as NIBP, SP02, weight, ultrasound, and more from smartphones, tablets and PCs for consults between EMS, mobile integrated health-community paramedicine, hospitals and public safety entities for better patient care.

About GD (General Devices)

GD enables smarter patient care by empowering hospitals, EMS, community paramedicine, and public safety with the most comprehensive, interactive, configurable, affordable, and integrated FDA listed medical communications and mobile telemedicine solutions. The benefits of which are enhanced workflows, minimized risk, reduced costs, and improved patient outcomes.


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