HEARS is the Hospital Emergency Amateur Radio System, a multi-site UHF amateur radio repeater network. The primary purpose of HEARS is to provide a secondary communications network, to facilitate the exchange of non-priority messages between hospitals in NC and VA. The repeater network can also be utilized as a primary communications system in the event the local public-safety radio system is inoperable.
HEARS is designed to be used daily for amateur radio communications and to support hospital and local government emergency communications when needed, throughout the region. Unlike other redundant communications systems that may be tested bi-monthly or yearly, HEARS is tested daily. If there are issues or problems with a repeater in the network, it can be recognized and remedied before the network is needed in an emergency. Amateur radio operators familiar with the area and the radio network test this readiness daily. At 21:30 hours, amateur radio stations check-in to a directed radio net from around the North Carolina & Virginia region, helping to confirm that the system is working as designed.
HEARS is linked full-time to eight UHF repeaters in Virginia. Originally called the 3 Dog Repeater Group, the VA linked repeater system was the result of the vision & hard work of several hams including Mike Knight, K4IJ (SK), who passed unexpectedly in October 2013. HEARS is committed to continue the work begun by 3DRG to support disaster communications in central & southwestern VA.
HEARS can also be linked to the Carolina 440 network, a similar UHF amateur repeater system with over twenty repeaters, covering the northern, central and coastal areas of North Carolina, including the Triad, Triangle and Wilmington areas (http://www.carolina440.net).
HEARS has connectivity to other amateur stations throughout North Carolina, the United States and the World using VoIP linking with EchoLink, which allows two or more amateur stations to connect and converse using the internet (http://www.echolink.org). With EchoLink, users of HEARS can communicate with other hospitals along the east coast.
HEARS is the first step in bridging a gap in emergency communications preparedness by recognizing and collaborating with licensed amateur radio operators. The HEARS network provides solid redundant communications capabilities to the local hospitals throughout the NC western division of the NDMS as well as central and southwest Virginia, and in turn provides coordination for medical personnel, equipment and supplies for the treatment and transportation of patients involved in disaster or emergencies.