EMS “Emergency Medical System”

The Emergency Medical System (EMS) is a communications platform enabling emergency services to respond effectively to distress calls in Eastern Ghouta. A comprehensive and centralised system, EMS gives the public the means to request assistance while simultaneously allowing emergency services to coordinate their response. With EMS, paramedics, ambulances and firefighting teams can work in concert with field hospitals and clinics to ensure that the needs of the community are met.

Since conflict broke out in Syria in 2011, telecommunications inside the country have been subject to heavy disruption and surveillance. For regions like Eastern Ghouta, which lie outside government control, communications have effectively been cut. No communication means no coordination, which means that the services needed to sustain the hundreds of thousands of people in these areas simply cannot function properly.

In Eastern Ghouta, the effect was particularly profound for the medical organizations tending to the extreme needs of a war-stricken community. These organization run multiple field hospitals and clinics, operate dozens of ambulances, and manage hundreds of medical staff. Without a means to organize these resources, their ability to respond to the frequent emergencies of the conflict was limited. At the needless cost of innocent lives, they were unable to report emergencies, direct ambulances, monitor staff levels at clinics, or manage inventory.

Medical organizations reluctantly turned to armed groups out of sheer desperation, requesting use of their communications facilities. Not only did this critically undermine their neutrality and independence, but it was also functionally ineffective. The communications facilities were not designed for emergency response, were in short supply, and were always requisitioned by the armed groups in times of heavy fighting—precisely when the medical organizations needed them the most.

In September 2012, Roia set out to help remedy this situation. Working in cooperation with several health organizations in Eastern Ghouta, Roia successfully established an area-wide telecommunications system to allow medical services to coordinate and operate effectively. Simple, secure, and reliable, EMS is quite literally providing a lifeline inside Eastern Ghouta.

Elegant in its simplicity, EMS is a secure, reliable, and efficient telecommunications service tailored to Eastern Ghouta's medical organizations. As an independent system, it operates free from threat of disruption and surveillance and allows emergency services to coordinate with confidence. Operational since September 2012, EMS currently coordinates the work of 31 field hospitals and clinics, 31 ambulances, and over 400 doctors and paramedics.

EMS consists of 3 elements: an emergency dispatch centre, a UHF radio network, and a wireless IP communication system. The dispatch centre is at the heart of the solution and is where emergency calls are received and managed. Here, qualified staff monitor and handle information about each emergency, dispatching the appropriate services according to the severity of the call and the available resources at local medical facilities.

The UHF radio network enables instant communication between and among medical professionals, the dispatch centre, and the people of Eastern Ghouta. It is composed of two frequencies: one private frequency for coordinating field staff and one open frequency for receiving emergency calls from the public. The radio network allows Eastern Ghouta's medical teams to respond and adapt to emergencies as they develop.

The final component of EMS is the wireless IP system, which functions as a secured intranet and is used by the dispatch centre to connect to the region's clinics and hospitals. Through this intranet the dispatch centre can access shared databases containing information about inventory levels, available specialists, and current staff numbers at Eastern Ghouta's medical facilities.