SFL Mobile Radio has helped the Galway Mountain Rescue Team scale new heights in essential communications that can be the difference between life and death.
With a primary response area spanning more than 700 sq miles, including some of Ireland’s most rugged terrain, effective communications are vital to the team’s mission of saving lives.
In 2017 the Galway MRT spent 3,500 hours providing a 24/7 rescue service in remote and mountainous areas. So when the team realised their existing radio communications equipment was no longer up to the task, they turned to SFL who assessed their requirements to provide in-depth advice and guidance before supplying a range of Motorola kit to suit their specific needs.
Due to the nature of the terrain which Galway MRT operates in, and due to the complexity of a mountain rescue operation, a new radio system had to be light-weight, have built-in GPS unit for tracking purposes, be fully waterproof and shock-resistant, provide means on interoperability with other mountain rescue teams in Ireland and, ideally, facilitate encrypted communication.
With SFL’s unique approach to customer details, gained from operating alongside the MoD and emergency service sectors for many years, a bespoke radio system suited to mission critical operations was proposed to the Galway team.
SFL sales director, Steven Landsborough, said: “Our R&D team has many years’ experience creating unique solutions for public safety departments. This project with Galway Mountain Rescue is a brilliant opportunity for SFL Mobile Radio to showcase our versatility and deliver Galway Mountain Rescue a mission critical RF solution that will improve efficiency and communication on rescues, and ultimately save lives.
“It is fantastic to be working alongside Motorola Solutions, as a Platinum Partner and Application Developer, and we are proud to be in a position to provide applications to this important sector.”
With SFL’s expert guidance, the Galway team made the decision to replace all existing handsets with the Motorola VHF DP3661e and to adopt the TRBOnet Enterprise Dispatch system to provide central communications control from their base vehicle.
In addition, the team also invested in a specially designed, ruggedized IP68 Peli Case repeater to be used within the mobile control unit. Enhanced with battery backup, the transportable transmitter is based on the SLR 5500 repeater to augment communications when operating beyond the line of sight when connected to the vehicle’s telescopic pump up mast.
The Motorola VHF DP3661e radio, when used in combination with the SLR 5500 repeater and TRBOnet software suite, meets all the requirements identified by the team and also offers additional features such as text messaging, communication recording, message encryption, and the possibility of deploying the repeater to a location remote from the base vehicle to extend the network range.
The specially adapted repeater can work standalone or connect to TRBOnet Enterprise software housed on the mobile control room’s PC via LAN or WIFI. Crucially, this allows the mobile mountain rescue team utilising the DP3661e portable radio equipment to be tracked for safety reasons.
GMRT Rory Sherlock is delighted with the change from analogue VHF to digital VHF: “We have been very impressed by the TRBOnet Enterprise Dispatch software,” he said.
“The ability to contact individual handsets or handset-groups is great, and the text messaging facility means vital details such as National Grid references can be issued to some or all members with few of the errors seen with the older system.”
The early experience with the system has been very positive for the Galway MRT who have noted how communication between team members is clearer than before and highlighted how well the real-time GPS tracking works and also how light and reliable the Motorola devices are.
“The ability to track the location of every team member on the hill is simply fantastic,” enthused Mr Sherlock.
“Seeing a marker for every team member on a single computer screen allows the search manager to see the progress of the search in real time and adjust the search plan as required. It also ensures a heightened level of safety for every team member, as we can track their location accurately despite darkness or poor weather conditions.”
The upgrade has had immediate benefits for the Galway MRT in areas from rescue missions to training new members.
Added Mr Sherlock: “Good communications are vital to successful operations and we can all remember operations where poor communications caused delays and misunderstandings. To be as efficient and effective as possible, we need to have clear, robust communications at all times.”