Mark Bonner has been at the audio-visual and integration game since 1988, so the sudden and complete stoppage of work that gripped the U.K. when the COVID-19 pandemic hit was frustrating. “It was pretty awful seeing this unfold on television and not really being able to help,” he says.
Then Bonner, a co-founder of the firm Delta Live
(which is now owned by CEDIA member L-Acoustics), got a call from a production manager that he knew from the commercial side of his business. Delta’s model is a blend of residential integration and live-event production, and the client who reached out wondered if the firm could lend some gear and expertise to Britain’s National Health Service, the NHS. As it turned out, hospitals there were in dire need of several hundred items that were sitting unused in Delta’s warehouse: walkie-talkies.
Bonner explains the problem these hospitals were facing: “Because of the precautions a health care professional must take when dealing with a positive patient in the intensive care unit, there’s a good 20 minutes of dressing and pressurizing a room before anyone can come in and out. If a nurse needs to ask a physician a question or what have you, the process is interminable.”
“It’s great that equipment which is currently gathering dust in our warehouse can be re-purposed to do something really important.” – Mark Bonner, Delta Live
Phones are impractical given masks and visors, and hospital infrastructure doesn’t include such devices as two-way intercoms, so the walkie-talkies that roadies and sound techs use in a live-production environment were the perfect solution.
“The day I heard that there was a need, I went over to the hospital in Hackney (a borough of London) and dropped off the first batch of equipment,” says Bonner. “They needed a fair number of these – you might have eight full wards of people who are being treated.” Frequency management (using the right radio channels to prevent interference) was key, and Bonner immediately realized that he had to create some kind of tutorial: “My technician shot a simple user video in about two minutes right before I went to the hospital.”
The Three Musketeers
Bonner left the supplies curbside, and then went to work expanding deliveries. “It was like the Three Musketeers. I had a transport manager who couldn't work, a programmer who couldn’t work, and myself. Now we’ve gotten into a program where we are delivering two or three of these shipments at the peak, on a daily basis.” Bonner and his team have developed a contact-free experience for everyone involved – shipments are requested and receipts are received digitally. “We ensure we don’t even contact one another in the warehouse – we’re never touching the same items.” Currently, Delta has served 20 hospitals with roughly 350 walkie-talkies deployed in the field.
In addition to the hospitals expressing their gratitude, Delta Live has seen another benefit: customer response. “It’s been terrific to see our clients associating the name with this initiative. It’s really been gratifying,” says Bonner. And Delta even produced a short video on the volunteer work they’re doing
– which begs the question: How does one pull that off in a pandemic?
“We shot the whole thing on an iPhone 11,” says Bonner. “My wife is an art director, and my business partner Paul Keating has a friend who’s an editor.” To top it all off, Bonner and his team were able to acquire some BBC footage outlining the usefulness of the devices.
Bonner comments, “It’s great that equipment which is currently gathering dust in our warehouse can be re-purposed to do something really important.” Between deliveries, he’s also been thinking about the length of time it may take for live events to come back and refocusing Delta Live’s attention to supporting integrators within the residential market.
Do you know of an integrator who’s pitching in during the pandemic? We’d love to hear your story. Contact CEDIA’s Ed Wenck: firstname.lastname@example.org