Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS) has recently been using its Excelerate Technology-supplied mobile command unit in a variety of different and cost effective ways to support the activities of its crews and commanders at a number of high profile events. These have included the 2012 Olympic torch relay, T4 on the Beach (with 75000 attendees) and the Summer Solstice (with 30000).  In doing so it has helped the public receive fast, on-the-spot treatment and enabled the ambulance service itself to optimise the management of its resources across all of its public safety activities.

According to Oliver Tovey, the GWAS officer responsible for the mobile command vehicle, the deployment of the unit, featuring mobile satellite broadband, wireless video and a number of other advanced communication solutions, has made a huge difference to the efficiency of the service delivery provided to the local public.

‘We covered both torch relays that have come into the GWAS patch, both in Bristol and in Salisbury. We primarily directed the vehicle towards the evening events, which were high profile events in both Bristol and Salisbury requiring strong levels of ambulance service involvement and management. The command unit provided the ambulance managers and commanders with a base to maintain effective communications, helping to monitor the torch route. This was also being covered by other Great Western Ambulance Service crews using the HART (Hazardous Area Response Team) forward command vehicle (also supplied by Excelerate Technology), so that they could keep a track on where the torch was within our patch. What we were able to do from within the command unit is see how that interfaced with our domestic 999 work, so that if we were to receive a 999 call we could plot it and support response.’

T4 on the Beach and other events

At T4 on the Beach, which attracted a crowd of about 75,000 people, the mobile command unit had a critical role to play in supporting the ambulance crews and the mobile field hospital deployed at the event.  ‘We were able to use the command unit to offer a variety of communications systems to support our primary Airwave as a base for communication.’

But the benefits went way beyond supporting radio communications. Because the unit is satellite broadband enabled it could also be used to plug into the service’s Emergency Operations Centre Computer Aided Despatch (CAD) system. This is the system which is used to receive emergency calls from the public and to deploy ambulance crews and vehicles to patients.

“The deployment of the GWAS mobile command unit, featuring mobile satellite broadband, wireless video and other advanced communication solutions, has made a huge difference to the efficiency of service delivery at major public events.”

‘We used our mobile command unit to plug into and monitor our own Great Western Ambulance Service CAD (Computer Aided Despatch) system, so that we could keep an eye on overall demand on the non-aligned system in the area. Using the access provided by mobile satellite broadband we can keep an eye on local hospital demand in the area, so that when we are at an event that has quite an isolated focus we can make a decision on whether to treat the patients there – on-site – or whether we have the capacity to take them off-site to a hospital.

‘Whilst we are at any event we are monitoring our CAD system through broadband, so we have access to and can see all activities and demand on our total resources. Any jobs that the general public would normally call 999 on we are able to intercept locally, using our mobile command unit, and respond to locally with event-specific crews. That takes the workload off our Emergency Operations centre and keeps total GWAS resources fully operational.

command unitWireless video cameras are also integrated into the mobile command unit’s systems, and these proved very useful too: ‘We have six cameras on the mobile command unit, which we can use to monitor crowd dynamics. So if there is any incident we are able to spot it and respond effectively. We have two rapid deploy cameras on the unit.  At the Summer Solstice, which had a crowd of about 30,000 people, we took one of the rapid deploy cameras and deployed it in the field hospital. What it actually provided was not only a way to monitor demand at the front door and to help support clinicians working there, but it also actually protected them. There was one incident where someone was assaulted and we were able to monitor that and record it. ‘


The command unit also generated a lot of interest from the general public and its multi-agency partners, such as fire and police, according to Oliver Tovey. ‘They said they had seen nothing like it.’