The Peak District Mountain Rescue Organisation (PDMRO) is one of the 48 teams and nine regions that make up Mountain Rescue England & Wales (MREW). The PDMRO is an umbrella organisation for seven mountain rescue teams, which cover the Buxton, Edale, Derby, Glossop, Oldham, Kinder and Woodhead areas in the Peak District.

The PDMRO is staffed entirely by unpaid volunteers and each of the seven teams is a registered charitable organisation. The teams respond to a combined total of approximately 500 incidents each year. Incidents include those caused by outdoor activities such as walking, climbing and mountain biking, as well as helping out on major searches, aircraft crashes and providing flood support services.

The Challenge

MREW uses radio channels licensed to UK Search and Rescue (UKSAR), which made some changes to the license. MREW, which was also grappling with an increased and more varied workload, decided it had to make more efficient use of the radio channels it had available.

One way to do this was to switch to a new digital radio system, which would instantly double the number of channels available compared with its aging analogue FM system. With access to more channels MREW believed it could increase the effectiveness of its teams.

The existing analogue FM radio solution had several other drawbacks. It had a fixed way of communicating, a limited range and had problems delivering a consistent and clear connection between team members when out on call during a rescue.

Derbyshire-based Zycomm Communications was chosen to provide, deliver and install and new wide area digital two-way radio network. Zycomm was tasked with providing a seamless migration path from the current analogue FM system over to the new digital technology.

The new digital two-way radio network had to cover the major parts of the Peak District region. The network also had to be scalable to ensure the seven PDMRO teams could communicate both locally and over a wider area if they were responding to major incidents and taking part in multi-team searches.

The job entailed supplying and installing the new system across each of the seven PDMRO teams and ensuring it was available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. The system also needed to incorporate GPS location features and provide a base platform for emerging digital technologies to help future proof the investment. Zycomm was also contracted to provide PDMRO with constant radio system support on a 24/7 basis.

The Solution

Zycomm provided the Peak District Mountain Rescue Organisation with a digital mobile radio (DMR) system from Hytera. To provide the required coverage seven Hytera DMR repeaters were installed mostly at or close to rescue team bases. The master repeater was installed at Zycomm’s own mast located at Peasunhurst in Derbyshire.

Zycomm set up a managed VPN (virtual private network) over the Internet to connect the seven repeaters together over IP links. Zycomm now provides constant support to the PDMRO by monitoring the VPN 24 hours a day, seven days a week, allowing it to react immediately should any network issues occur, thereby minimising any detrimental impact on PDMRO’s activities.

The Results

Having a robust and reliable communication system is of vital importance to the Peak District Mountain Rescue Organisation and its seven teams as it ensures they can respond efficiently and effectively to any call out. Good communications are a critical tool in keeping people safe and attended to as quickly as possible.

The new Hytera digital repeater system and handsets resolved the communication difficulties imposed by the old analogue FM technology. The new DMR system provides the PDMRO with more robust and reliable communications for team members throughout the Peak District Region, as well as giving them more flexibility.

The increased flexibility is a result of having several options. Instead of one level of communication mountain rescue staff are now able to work with three levels: simplex, direct mode, radio-to-radio communication; the use of repeaters to provide coverage locally around a team base; and the use of the repeaters connected together to provide wider coverage across the majority of the Peak District region, ensuring PDMRO members are rarely out of radio coverage.

The improved and now consistent radio communication is proving to be a crucial tool in helping the mountain rescue teams carry out their work of rescuing people quickly and efficiently.

Summing up, Mick Blood, DMR project manager with PDMRO, says:

“When we were given the task of who to choose for our communication needs, we wanted more than a supplier, we wanted a partnership which is something that we now have with Zycomm.”
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10 april 2018