Mock Helicopter Crash Teaches Lifesaving Skills

Article courtesy of The Logan Daily News
By Beth Lanning

WARD TOWNSHIP — Teamwork made a mock helicopter crash exercise a
success in Hocking County as first responders gained invaluable experience.
MedFlight Safety Officer and Outreach Coordinator Amanda Ball said this
week they simulated a “mock crash,” off of Carbon Hill-Buchtel Road.
“The flight crew was under the impression they were responding to a local
emergency in Hocking County. Then they were told it was a ‘downed aircraft’
drill while in the air,” Ball explained. “We decided to place the emergency
landing zone on rural and wooded private property so the flight crew’s selfextrication,
location, and survival skill sets could be evaluated.”

2018 Drill Location
Southeast Ohio’s terrain is rural and heavily wooded.  The drill location was selected by MedFlight’s safety team with that in mind.

MedFlight’s exercise included help from the Logan Fire Department,
Hocking County Emergency Medical Service, Hocking County 911, MedComm,
and Ward Township Fire and Rescue. According to the Ward Township Fire and Rescue’s Facebook page, MedComm (MedFlight’s dispatch center) was able to retrieve the medical helicopter’s location through GPS technology.  From there, Hocking County 911, LFD, Hocking EMS and Ward Township’s crew were dispatched to the location.

Ball noted that through aviation GPS tracking, called IRIS, the dispatch center was able to locate the downed aircraft where it landed.  She added that the flight crew vocalized how they would contact the dispatch center via radio, locate themselves, safely shut down the aircraft and self-extricate.  “Not only were the flight crew’s processes evaluated, but so were the emergency responses of our dispatch center, our leadership and our aviation
vendor,” she continued. “But we also wanted to include fire, EMS, and 911 departments in Hocking County so we could see the overall multi-jurisdiction response to an event of this kind.”

PAIP EMS response
The multi-jurisdictional response included Ward Township Fire Department, City of Logan Fire Department, Hocking County EMS, and Hocking County 911.

Hocking County EMS Chief Scott Brooker said it was very beneficial to have the exercise and it was conducted as real as possible. “It was more like an emergency landing/hard landing. There is a whole series of events that evolve after that,” Brooker commented. “It was quite interesting because when they did the mock mayday, MedComm had to locate
them so they know where to locate them and send help to them.” Brooker explained the mock helicopter crash exercise was beneficial and kind of unique at the same time.
“A lot of times we’re calling for air medical support when we have critical patients. We don’t think about necessarily that the air medical service needing help themselves,” Brooker noted. “You also have to think whether or not the air medical service will need more air medical helicopters to transport them.  Are the resources going to be available?” Plus, Brooker said there could also be a patient in the medical helicopter
who needs help as well.

If it were a true helicopter emergency, there is a possibility of it catching on
fire.  LFD Chief Brian Robertson said he gained a wealth of knowledge from the exercise.  “It was very informative.  It went over many safety procedures like how to use the fuel shutoff,” Robertson expressed.  The fire chief was also briefed on how much fuel the medical helicopter was carrying, where to read the fuel usage, and where to find the electrical shutoff and emergency shutdown switches.  “If they do a hard landing and the aircraft is still running — these are the things we need to do to shut the aircraft down,” the fire chief explained. “We learned some stuff we didn’t know.”

Metro Aviation pilot John Massey reviews aircraft safety and emergency shut down procedures with first responders.

In any emergency, communication is key and the Hocking County 911 staff assisted in the mock helicopter crash exercise.  “They were testing their pilots and their communication center. They requested help from us after they realized their helicopter was doing a hard
landing,” said Hocking County 911 Director Sandy Wintermute. Wintermute said they dispatched for help while following the protocol set in place for that type of incident.
“A crash is possible. We have two helicopter services that service Hocking County.  Plus, all the other helicopters that travel through the area,” Wintermute stated. “It’s kind of in the back of everybody’s mind. It’s good to practice what to do.”

“We want these responses at MedFlight to be second-nature so if an emergency does occur, we are ready. Preparedness allows for a quicker response and safer conditions,” Ball concluded.

MF6 team
MedFlight 6 Team (L to R) Pilot John Massey, Flight Nurse Tyler Altier, Flight Paramedic Mike McNamara.  MedFlight 6 is based in McConnelsville, OH, and is one of twelve MedFlight critical-care transport teams serving Ohio.