The most important piece of equipment carried on board a STARS helicopter may not be a ventilator or a cardiac monitor – it may just be the radio. For both the air medical and aviation crews, their radios are more than a nicety; they are a lifeline.

Through the course of every mission, crews must stay in touch with a range of contacts: from the STARS Emergency Link Centre staff who dispatch and support the mission, to first responders on the ground who provide preliminary patient information and landing zone support, to the doctors and nurses who hurriedly make preparations to receive patients.

Maintaining clear and reliable communication with these partners is essential to the success of a STARS mission.

Across Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba, STARS is undertaking significant technology upgrades to our helicopter and handheld radios to ensure our crews have access to leading-edge provincial radio networks.

Historically, emergency response agencies such as STARS had to build and maintain their own radio infrastructure. In addition to this being a costly duplicated effort, it was often challenging – if not impossible – to communicate between different agencies’ radios and frequencies.

In an effort to address this, governments are increasingly taking the step of building shared, province-wide radio networks for first responders. For STARS, this means having access to leading edge radio infrastructure that allows seamless communication with our emergency response colleagues.

To access these provincial radio networks, however, STARS must upgrade our own radio equipment – both aircraft-mounted and those worn on the belts of our crews in the field. This process is under way, and STARS will be ready to access the next generation radio networks alongside our provincial counterparts.