Tag: safety


Ball, Amandal
Amanda Osborne, MedFlight Outreach Coordinator

About a decade ago, while social media was still in its infancy for organizations like ours, I “took over the reigns” as administrator for MedFlight’s social accounts.  At that time, we had a presence on Facebook and Twitter, and had been posting friendly, benign messaging.  There was no real “training” to send me to at that time… I learned as I went, as most “social media experts” did (and still do), fitting the work in when I had the time between other work duties and real-life to-do lists.

After a few years of self-training, research, and a lot of real-life experience, successes and stumbles, I was able to find a FEMA/DHS-level social media course that focused on the usage of social media in disaster management.  To say that course opened my eyes would be an understatement.  Established and vetted public service social media administrators led the course and reiterated the importance of a consistent presence online during both “blue sky” and “gray sky” days, the importance of social media policy (internal and external), and the importance of protecting your online privacy.

I was hooked, and the class reiterated that my own “self-training” was paying off… MedFlight was ahead of the curve with a lot of these practices already in place.  A few months later, I became an instructor of the class, and now teach three FEMA-level social media courses to government and public safety personnel, nationwide.

Your online privacy and identity as a community member, and healthcare provider, are very important…  In this day and age, it does not take much for information posted online to go ‘viral’… perhaps seeping out of the post’s original context and creating a larger problem once shared without the accompanying story.  We recognize that social media can be a great communication tool and a great way for families and loved ones to connect… but it can also be a hub of misinformation and safety threats.  Because of this, we’ve always taken proactive steps at MedFlight to help protect our employee’s online presences.  Here are a few:    

Employee last names are not utilized in posts, their badges “pixelated” when possible to protect their identity.  “Photo credit” is not given to crew members if they take the photo and share it with me for organization use.   All photos shared on MedFlight accounts are reviewed and approved.  All social media posts are archived.  We drafted an internal social media policy.  Why do we go through so many steps?  To protect and respect the online identities of MedFlight team members. 

What you can do to stay safe online:

  1.  Don’t post anything to your social media accounts that you don’t want a stranger to know, you don’t want a partnering agency to see, etc.  Everything you post online (including comments, “likes” and pictures) can be recorded and shared… regardless of your privacy settings.  Could a screenshot of a direct message be shared outside of the private setting you thought it existed in?  Absolutely.
  2. Do not “tag” yourself, or team members, in agency posts or comments.  When you do this, you are opening yourself up to unwanted friend requests or “follows” from people you may not know, or want to know, outside of work.  Which leads to my third point…
  3. Do not accept friend requests from people you do not know personally and well.  An example: A member of one of our flight teams greeted the critically-ill patient’s family at the beginning of a transport and introduced herself.  The flight time was approximately 30 minutes to the receiving hospital, and, in that time, she had received a “friend request” on Facebook from a member of that patient’s family.  She declined the request once she saw it that evening.  Your account’s settings should ensure your page is as private as possible to those you are not connected with.
  4. Review your social media privacy settings often… the platforms often update your settings on your behalf as they add features to the platform, and you can change them back to ensure your privacy is protected.
  5. “Lock down” your account’s public content as much as you can.  Example: You publically list your address, phone number, and birthdate on your Facebook “About” section.  Your profile picture is a great selfie, and your cover photo showcases your home and children’s faces.  On Instagram and Twitter, you “check in” out of state at different vacation spots while you travel with your family.  A criminal now has a lot of information that confirms you are not at home.  You have also listed your last name, your hometown, your children’s approximate ages with the photo… would it take much work for a stranger to figure out which school they go to?  It does not take much for info you post to get into the wrong hands, and for chaos to ensue.
  6. Consistently review online safety with your coworkers and community leaders.  An internal policy and training program is vital.
  7.  Use two-factor authentification features to help protect your account from hackers, and sign out of your account on every device once you are done viewing it… including on your phone.
  8.  Steer clear of public wifi hotspots when accessing your personal information online.  There are less security measures on public wifi, allowing hackers to access your information quicker.

Remain “situationally aware” while navigating online, and your real-life information will remain as secure as possible.  Take an active role in your online safety!

Find out more about protecting your online privacy: staysafeonline.org/stay-safe-online/

HEAR or SEE a Manned Aircraft? Land the Drone.

Ball, Amandal
Amanda Osborne, MedFlight Outreach Coordinator, FAA Safety Team Representative

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV/UAS/drones) provide a great service when assessing damage in disasters, emergency scenes, and search missions.  This industry will aid first responders and emergency management personnel in ways we’ve not seen before, and at MedFlight, we proactively work to “Share the Air” with UAS enthusiasts and professionals with UAV pilot workshop opportunities, constant conversations with air medical and aviation organizations, and more.

We do ask that UAS pilots “Share the Air” as well.  Manned aircraft (any type of aircraft with a pilot inside and at the controls) have the right-a-away in almost any in-flight scenario you can think of.

While in-flight, our pilot and medical crews are constantly scanning the horizon and communicating risks they may identify to each other.  The helicopter itself is also scanning its surroundings for obstructions with the aid of several comprehensive awareness systems.  The crew also utilizes the customized Air Medical Resource Management training they receive throughout the year to help accomplish their goal of completing a safe mission.  These are just a few pieces of a large effort to remain situationally-aware in an ever-changing environment.

Consider this… on average, air medical helicopters cruise between 120-170 knots, depending on the airframe…around 2-3 miles a minute.  While cruising altitude for VFR flight averages around 1500 ft AGL, flight teams are often descending into destinations well-before they arrive there.  Think of the descent pattern for a commercial airplane when approaching the airport.  It’s the same concept, but over a shorter distance, and with more unpredictability.  Our flight requests differ from day to day, location to location.

How can you help?  If you launch a UAV under a professional OR recreational setting, land it immediately if you see or hear another manned aircraft in the area.  Deconflict the airspace by exiting it as soon as possible.

Manned aircraft teams have a harder time seeing your UAV than you do seeing them… UAVs often blend into the horizon when viewed from above… even with lights, bright colors, etc.

It’s always a good idea to remain situationally-aware while you fly.  We appreciate your efforts to keep our aviation community (including you) safe!

There is a ton of great information out there on safe flying practices.  The FAA has made it easy for UAS enthusiasts and professionals to learn more and stay safe:  Keep up to date on rules and regulations, register your drone, and receive on-going training at https://www.faa.gov/uas/ and https://faadronezone.faa.gov/#/

Graphic courtesy of the FAA.


Respect Your Work-Life Balance

Perkins, Mike
Mike Perkins, Vice President of Operations at MedFlight

I recently returned from a week’s long vacation where I was able to totally disconnect, and I plan to do it again later this summer.  For those of you that don’t know me well, that’s an extremely difficult task.  Up until four years ago, work-life balance was a real struggle.  It wasn’t until my family moved to our small farm, started raising chickens, began mowing a ton of grass, and watched both my daughters head off to college that I finally “got it.”

While we need to continue working hard to ensure we are doing what’s best for our patients and the organization as a whole, we also need to be taking care and making time for ourselves.  It’s an old saying that in order to take care of others, we need to take care of ourselves first.

There has been a great deal of focus lately on providing support for caregivers. This support carries over to daily duties and interactions, not just during or after difficult events.  At MedFlight we initiated an internal Critical Incident Stress Debrief team (CISD) and Comfort Dog program to help provide that support both internally and externally.

A MedFlight communication specialist greets the organization's therapy dog, Ollie.
MedFlight Communication Specialist Paige D. greets the organization’s therapy dog, Ollie.

Equally important, information and education has been provided to MedFlight partners on how to recognize stress and teach preventative methods of reducing stressors in our lives.  We all have stress. The key is how we deal with that stress.  As we know, there are healthy ways to deal with the stressors like exercising, hobbies, and non-work-related outlets. Conversely, there are some not-so-healthy ways.

Unfortunately, stressors are a major part of this profession. We need to do our very best to stay healthy, both physically and mentally.  Many of you probably already do this.  For those that do, kudos to you!  Additionally, help keep an eye on your colleagues.  This includes making sure they find a support system and have an avenue to disconnect from work.  Encourage them to find a hobby or reconnect with family and friends and focus on what’s truly important.  For those of you that struggle with work-life balance like me, I encourage you to step back and really reflect on other aspects of your life.  Trust me, there is more to life than constantly working, checking email 24/7 (guilty), and being tethered to smart phones.

I encourage you to find your Zen outside of work.  Mine just happens to be taking care of our hobby farm and beekeeping. I suggest you find something that allows your mind to wander and requires very little brain power.  It’s truly therapeutic and will make you happier and healthier.  Stay safe.  Stay healthy.  Thanks for all you do.



The Dangerous Turn

Jeff White, M.S., MTSP-C, FP-C

Director of Safety, HealthNet Aeromedical Services

In the helicopter air ambulance (HAA) environment we know that at any given time, there could be a catastrophic event.  We train and try to prepare ourselves to the very best of our abilities, always trying to be ready for the worst.  Often the focus on safety is lost until something catastrophic happens, then it is in the forefront again.  This ebb and flow of accidents can be seen in the retrospective looks completed by the FAA and NTSB.  We bring this up now as 2019 is shaping up to a high accident year.


It seems with all the focus and attention on accident prevention and safety we are climbing higher and higher in 2019. Why is this happening? Can every accident be attributed to human error? Some would argue it is always human error because even a mechanical failure of a part involved a human designing, building and installing the part. We tend to deviate from normal standard practice once we get into a routine and habit, thus leading to a normalization of deviance.  Researchers say that approximately 95% of a person’s day is subconscious, meaning we are running on auto pilot and going through the motions of our daily routine. For example, once we have used a checklist enough times so memorize it we often stop using the checklist or once we have checked our equipment enough times we just expect it to be there when we do our daily checks.  Is this normalization an issue that we can overcome?  Is most training not set up to create these repetitious, muscle memory type patterns?  Is our current method of training and operation part or the problem?  How unsafe is changing processes too frequently?

Oversight and regulation have quite a bit of influence on all the areas questioned above. There is a large push in general aviation to get the safety message out to smaller and private operators who often miss the national releases and programs.  As you can see from the graphs provided by the FAA, HAA operations account for a very small portion of the overall aviation accidents.  However, they get quite a bit of attention in the public eye because most often they involve a patient or response to a patient potentially causing harm to those outside of the industry.




It is incumbent on all of us as an industry to be our brother’s keeper and help each other. Small to large operators must work together to make sure we all go home at the end of our day.




Sentry and Safety

Meade, Bev
Bev Meade, Flight Nurse, MedFlight

The granite & metal memorial dedicated to flight paramedic Shawn Baker, who passed away unexpectedly in 2010 from medical complications, stands like a sentry at the entrance to MedFlight 3’s base in Pomeroy, Ohio.  For me, it is a reminder, and a caution, of the fragility of life.   As I enter the base it also serves as a profound incentive to move situational awareness to the forefront of my actions for the coming shift.

MedFlight 3's memorial to Shawn Baker.
MedFlight 3 Base’s Memorial to Flight Paramedic Shawn Baker.

When we consider safety in critical care transport, we think of vehicle walk-arounds, safety belts, sterile cockpit, speed limits and more.  But do we consider that safety also involves listening, looking, and being aware when our team members are not at the top of their game?

Safety by definition is “the state of being safe, freedom from the occurrence or risk of injury, danger, or loss” (Webster Dictionary, 2019).  We complete an individual Risk Assessment (RA) during crew briefing at the beginning of our shift that includes our activity level, restfulness, previous 12 hours’ mission hours, and work days in a row that helps us identify the potential dangers associated with our cognizant and physical needs during our work hours. In addition, we need to listen to our colleagues during our conversations and observe indicators of their physical well-being.

Recently, I came to work with a nagging sinus issue that had not resolved after some home remedies (after all, I AM a seasoned nurse!).  I was not in pain or otherwise compromised but was just not feeling 100%.  After 20+ years of flying and ground transport, I had adopted “push forward, push forward” as my mantra and I continued my shift.  We received a mission request. We responded as usual with our safety walk-arounds and Crew Resource Management (CRM) in all phases of our flight. As we flew back to base following the mission, I experienced a pop in my left ear that quickly turned to intense discomfort.  We landed safely at the base, and I continued with the post-mission associated responsibilities even though I had essentially lost the hearing in my left ear by this time.  The paramedic I was partnered with for the shift had noticed the change in me and said “you seem a little off today. Are you okay?” That was all I needed to reevaluate my situation and be aware that I was giving less than my usual 100% to not only my team and organization, but perhaps to my patients as well.

The paramedic had acted as the “sentry” to my team member performance, and that brought safety to the forefront of my CRM contribution. I took some time to reevaluate what I was doing to myself and my team in terms of safety and wellness.  I announced to the pilot and paramedic that I was going home and needed to care for myself before I could care for our patients.

I suggest transport clinicians not only use risk assessment tools as a numerical identifier of “the risk of danger”, but also as an opportunity of listening, awareness, and observation of each other as well.

As I continue to be part of the MedFlight 3 team and Mobile ICU teams in our organization, I will hold the “sentry of safety” close to my heart.  Listen to each other and HEAR each other during your mission conversations and casual conversations, which helps fulfill a “Safety First” mission at your workplace.

mf3 sam
MedFlight 3’s base in Pomeroy, OH.  Partners For Life.  Photo Credit: Sam S.


Better Lucky Than Good?

Justin Koper, M.S., GSP, MTSP-C, FP-C

Safety Officer, HealthNet Aeromedical Services

While attending the Safety 2019 conference in New Orleans, I had the opportunity to interact with some of the nearly 6,000 safety professionals in attendance.  During all of the networking, I was asked about the type of industry I worked in, to which I replied “air and ground ambulance services”.  Predictably, everyone remarked about the precarious nature of air medical operations, but very few made remarks about the dangers of ground ambulance operations.  Unfortunately, I feel this is an all too common misnomer even among our own ranks.  Yes, the consequences of a helicopter related incident are far more severe than ground incidents, but thankfully air incidents are far less frequent.

During routine ground EMS operations, crews are exposed to a multitude of hazards not commonly present in the aviation industry such as distracted drivers, impaired drivers, road rage incidents, drivers violating traffic laws, and the list goes on and on.  Despite these external threats that come at us day in and day out, I still routinely see crew members partake in at-risk behavior such as speeding, use of a mobile device behind the wheel, not using seat belts, etc.  There is an adage from law enforcement which says that for a criminal to not be caught, he or she must be lucky every single time, whereas the officer only has to be lucky once. This mindset holds true with complacency and at-risk behavior where the complacent individual has to be lucky every single time they engage in at-risk behavior in order to avoid a bad outcome whereas the threat or hazard only has to be lucky once to get through all of our defenses to cause a bad outcome.

For EMS as a whole to move past a reactive safety mindset to one that is focused on prevention, each employee must have an appreciation of the problems and hazards we face. They must also reinvest themselves into their organization’s safety culture.

Since the beginning of 2018, HealthTeam Critical Care Transport has closely monitored any and all vehicle related incidents so we can carefully analyze trends within our organization. The data listed below shows the total number of at-fault incidents from January 1st 2018 to May 31st 2019.

Base At Fault Incidents
Beckley (Opened Nov. ’18) 0
Charleston 16
Martinsburg 3
Morgantown 6
Moundsville 2
Petersburg 1
Total 28

Just looking at total number of incidents does not truly paint a picture of where our opportunities for improvement are at. During this time frame our program’s ambulances have logged more than 2.7 million miles so just looking at sheer number of incidents makes it difficult to identify trends or problem areas. Listed below are each of the bases incident rates per 100,000 miles driven. Please note that even though Moundsville Ground has the highest incident rate, they had not yet accumulated 100,000 miles in this time period.

Base At Fault Incident Rate
Moundsville 2.02
Charleston 1.67
Petersburg 0.98
Morgantown 0.63
Martinsburg 0.53
Beckley 0.0
Company Average 1.02

With this data in mind, it is important to remember that each one of these incidents were preventable and many were the result of complacency.  Backing incidents, overhead strikes (driving under awnings) and sideswiping objects (cutting corners too close) accounted for 83% of our overall at-fault incidents.  It is also important to note that this data does not include the two at-fault collisions which occurred in July 2019.

What we have experienced within HealthTeam Critical Care Transport is like the rest of the EMS industry in terms of causal factors and preventability of incidents. According to NIOSH, backing incidents were the cause of 25% of all vehicle accidents even though we drive forwards 99% of the time.

Now that the extent of the problem is known, the next logical question is what we can do to make things better. Considering all the at-fault incidents were the result of unsafe actions or complacency, the answer is simply personal accountability. You have a responsibility to yourself and your partner to operate in accordance with the law and policy and failure to abide by them places everyone at an unacceptable level of risk. If you notice your partner taking unsafe actions, you need to hold them accountable in order to ensure everyone’s safety. We, as a program, have tried to instill the principle that safety is fundamental to our culture, but it only works when people are accountable for their actions and don’t rely on blind luck for a good outcome.


Transporting Infectious Patients

by Karen Swecker, RN, Infectious Control Liaison at MedFlight.

Would you be able to recognize an infectious patient?  At this time outbreaks of vaccine preventable diseases such as chickenpox, measles, diptheria, and polio are occurring in several countries in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the African continent.  In the U.S. the evening news has been reporting an ongoing outbreak of measles – more than 465 cases as of April 4, 2019.  A health threat anywhere is a health threat everywhere” is the statement from a 2018 conference of infectious disease physicians from across the world.  In today’s world of frequent international travel previously eliminated disease outbreaks in the U.S. are increasing.  Your chance of seeing a case of the measles, diptheria, chickenpox or even polio are increasing.  Would you be able to identify and protect yourself and others from one of these diseases during a patient transport?


Measles is a very contagious, acute viral respiratory illness that was eliminated in the U.S. from 2000 to 2008.  Before vaccine availability, the U.S. averaged 549,000 cases of measles with approximately 500 related deaths annually.  (The CDC states due to unreported cases the count of measles cases was in actuality closer to 3 to 4 million.)  Of the reported cases, 48,000 were hospitalized and 1000 people developed chronic disabilities due to acute encephalitis.  Signs and symptoms of the measles include:

  • Fever – may be up to 105oF
  • Malaise
  • “3 C’s” – cough, coryza (runny nose) and conjunctivitis (pink eye)
  • Koplik spots – white spots inside the mouth that look like tiny grains of sand surrounded by a red ring.
  • Maculopapular rash that appears about 14 days after exposure. Spreads from the head to the trunk to the extremities.  The immunocompromised typically do not develop the rash.


measles 1

Chickenpox is a very contagious, vaccine preventable disease.  Before the vaccine approximately 4 million people in the U.S. got chickenpox each year, more than 10,500 of those were hospitalized and 100-150 died each year.  Side effects of the disease include skin infections (may have more than 500 blisters), dehydration, pneumonia and encephalitis.  Symptoms last 7 to 10 days and include:

  • Infectious 1 to 2 days before rash begins
  • May start as “cold” symptoms – runny nose, sneezing, cough before rash begins
  • Itchy rash of blisters, appears as very small red pimples that rapidly spread
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Malaise

Diptheria is very infectious bacteria whose toxin causes tissue death which creates a thick grey membrane.  This membrane may cover the back of the throat, tonsils, or larynx which leads to difficulty breathing, swallowing and speaking.  The bacterial toxin may also go systemic and cause damage to the heart, nerves and kidneys.  Before the vaccine (tetanus/diptheria/pertussis) there were more than 200,000 cases in the U.S. annually with more than 15,000 deaths.  Although still rare in the U.S., many countries continue with cases – more than 7,000 cases occur worldwide annually.  The overall death rate from diptheria is 5%-10%, with a fatality rate of 20% for those under 5 and over 40.  Diptheria is transmitted person to person via respiratory droplets from coughing or sneezing and via contact with contaminated surfaces or objects.  Symptoms begin 2 to 10 days after exposure, can involve any mucus membrane including the tonsils and include:

  • Weakness
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Swollen glands in the neck
diptheria 1

Polio is an infectious disease that is crippling and potentially deadly.  It is caused by a virus that easily spreads from person to person mainly via fecal/oral route, although it is also transmitted through contaminated food or water.  Polio multiplies in the intestinal track then invades the nervous system where it can cause permanent paralysis within a few hours.  In the pre-vaccine years of the 1950s, polio outbreaks caused more than 15,000 cases of paralysis each year.  Due to vaccination there have been no polio cases originating in the U.S. since 1979.  In 1993 there was one case imported into the U.S. via an unvaccinated person who traveled to a country with wide spread polio.  Due to vaccine, the number of cases worldwide has dramatically decreased (33 reported in 2018).  However, as long as there is one case the unvaccinated are at risk.  There is no cure for polio and 1 in 200 infections will result in permanent paralysis.  Symptoms include:

·                     Fever ·                     Fatigue
·                     Headache ·                     Vomiting
·                     Stiff neck ·                     Pain in the limbs


What you can do to protect yourself and others from these diseases. 

  • Make sure you and your family’s vaccines are up to date.
  • Familiarize yourself with signs/symptoms of rarely seen communicable diseases.
  • Use airborne precautions If a patient has any of these signs/symptoms – wear a fit tested N95 mask, place a surgical mask on the patient if tolerated.
  • Use contact precautions which include gowns and gloves. Remember not to touch surfaces with contaminated gloves.
  • Thoroughly disinfect surfaces and equipment. Use EPA approved disinfectant wipes or sprays to clean surfaces.  Change wipes frequently as the wipes quickly become contaminated and will spread the germs instead of removing them.

Sources:  www.cdc.gov; www.who.org



A Lynyrd Skynyrd Case Study in Safety

by Amanda Osborne, MedFlight Outreach Coordinator

What can we learn from this rock band’s fatal plane crash?

While on their way to a show in 1977, the band’s chartered private plane ran out of fuel, and both engines failed… Causing a freefall from 4,500 ft cruising altitude.  Several on-board were killed on impact, including the band’s lead singer, shocking their friends, family, and fans… as well as the aviation industry.  What happened?  Why?  How?

The band’s management had advised that the plane they normally chartered was being replaced with a newer, more “trustworthy” aircraft after this concert.  But this concert was going to be a big one, and the pressure was on to be there.

“The flames shooting out of the engine 2 days earlier didn’t make me very confident.”
“We were afraid to get on the plane, but didn’t know any better.”
“Something’s not right.”
“Aerosmith previously used this plane, and the pilots had questioned its flight worthiness.”
“I didn’t see the pilots check it out before they climbed in.”
“Let’s go anyway, man.  We’ve got a gig to do.”


Inadequate fuel planning.
Aircraft was last checked 2 days prior to flight.
High, and unnoticed, fuel consumption by one of the engines during the flight.
Poor flight path planning prior to takeoff.
Continued flight with minimal fuel, overflying several airports with fuel resources.
Negligence or ignorance in regards to engine instruments.
Passengers entering and exiting cockpit.

“There were a lot of people on the plane that knew something was wrong, but we all kind of followed each other, and that’s where we made our mistake.”


There have been many speculations on what led to this incident… Pressure on the pilots to get the band to their destination, a rowdy culture that quite possibly caused distraction in the cockpit, lack of accountability in maintaining the plane’s airworthiness, and more.

Discuss with your transport team:  Do you see similarities to the pressures and challenges in our industry?  What factors may have played into this incident?  What measures does your organization have in place to enhance safe operations, reduce distraction, maintain vehicle quality and remove customer and financial pressure when reviewing transport requests?

SHARE THE AIR: A Workshop for UAS Enthusiasts

Whether you’re a seasoned UAS pilot, or just received a drone for Christmas… the “Share the Air” workshop has something for you.

The goal of this workshop is to network with fellow aviation enthusiasts and promote safety in the fast-growing world of Unmanned Aircraft Systems.

Why attend?


  • You’ll learn safe flying practices from experience UAS operators with a background in public service & commercial flying
  • You’ll learn about an industry that operates in the same airspace:  Air Medical Helicopters
  • You’ll meet local Ohio State Airport officials and FAA officials, who will provide industry updates and answer any questions you may have
  • You’ll meet MedFlight crew members and tour a MedFlight helicopter
  • You’ll receive a certificate of attendance, thanking you for being a Safety Advocate


UAS operators over the age of 10 are welcome to attend.  Operators under 16 years old must be accompanied by a parent, but will receive a special kid-friendly thank you gift for attending!
MedFlight is located at the OSU Airport.  For security purposes, you must have an Eventbrite ticket in-hand or on your device to attend.
Register today, and share with your colleagues.  Space is limited. https://sharetheair.eventbrite.com
We’ll see you there!