Firefighting, Technical Rescue

FIRE DEPARTMENT RESPONSE TO HELICOPTER EMERGENCIES

Issue 3 and Volume 159.

BY JERRY KNAPP, CHRISTOPHER FLATLEY, AND WAYNE SUTHERLAND Structural fire departments across the country routinely are called to assist with landing zones (LZs) for medical evacuation air ambulance missions, VIP standbys, and helicopter emergencies. Firefighters think they are ready for anything, but responding to calls involving helicopters requires some unique understanding, specialized training, and planning. The safety of flight crews, patients, responders, and the community are at risk at these calls. The medical evacuation helicopter has been one of the greatest life-saving tools at our disposal, and it also creates situations in which structural firefighters interface with aircraft in the firefighters’ first-due response area. About 750 air ambulances are operating in the United States today. They carry approximately 400,000 patients a year. Recently, the number of crashes involving these helicopters has increased dramatically. According to a USA Today report (July 18, 2005): “Since 2000, 60 people have died in 84…

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