Grovetown public safety officers are preparing to land helicopters.
They won't actually be flying the whirlybirds, but instructors from Gold Cross will be teaching them to establish safe landing zones for the AirMed emergency helicopter.
Gold Cross/AirMed Director Dan Gates said the two-hour Landing Zone Coordinator Course scheduled for June 17 shows first responders how to set up a landing zone and, if necessary, call for AirMed assistance without the benefit of EMS personnel.
"The actual meat of the program is how to set up a good landing zone for the helicopter," said Gates. "We go into some of the limitations on the aircraft and why they need this much room to land. It has to do with the size of the helicopter and the power available."
Although the 40-foot-long AirMed helicopter could squeeze into a 50-by-50 square foot area, Gates said it is preferable to look for a landing zone twice that size.
Other landing factors officers should be aware of, said Gates, include power line obstructions, proximity of buildings and trees, weather conditions, night landings and visibility.
The last emergency helicopter crash in Augusta was University Hospital's Lifebird on July 10, 1986, when the pilot took off into a 115,000 volt transmission line after responding to an accident on Interstate-20. Due to the crash, electric and water services were shut down for Richmond County residents for hours.
Gates said that helicopter crashes are a rarity, but the seriousness of them when one does go down makes the training all that much more important.
"We've been here for three years and they've always done a real good job," he said. "This is just a little more formal and gives them a little more information. It kind of makes it even across the board that everyone has the same information."
Currently, EMS personnel evaluate injuries at an accident scene and call in the helicopter when they feel it's warranted. The power point presentation for Grovetown Public Safety, as well as some Columbia County Sheriff's Office deputies and Gold Cross EMTs, will teach first responders the signs they can look for in an emergency that might require an immediate airlift. Those first responders will have the option of calling for AirMed without waiting for EMS.
Some of the examples Gates gave of situations that would require the helicopter were amputations, head wounds, chest wounds and unresponsive victims.
"This will give them a little bit of medical knowledge to say, 'They're going to need a helicopter for this. Go ahead and send them,' even though an ambulance isn't there," he said.
Grovetown Public Safety is the first local emergency response department to receive the state-certified course, but Gates said he plans to train the sheriff's office and the Martinez Fire Department at later dates.
"An added benefit of this course is that it gives us someone who can take charge of a scene," said Gates. "If they've been through this course they can be the landing zone coordinator and land the aircraft. It gives a hierarchy at the scene."
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