“When life’s on the line, we’re in the air.” — EagleMed
SAVONBURG — Saturday morning Savonburg volunteer firefighters and emergency responders bundled against a chilly north wind got heart-warming information from EagleMed, a critical care transport service.
An EagleMed helicopter stationed in Chanute could be in the Savonburg area in a matter of minutes to carry a seriously ill or injured patient to hospital care, responders were told. Proving that, pilot Dean Guilliams landed a medevac helicopter in a vacant lot about 15 minutes after it was summoned by paramedic Duane Jones.
“A helicopter can be in the air in six to 10 minutes after we get a call,” Jones said.
Jones had spent the previous hour telling EagleMed’s story, noting aircraft were primed to respond 24 hours a day, every day.
PRIVATELY owned and operated, Wichita-headquartered EagleMed has been in business since Sept. 1, 1981.
The company serves all of Kansas plus parts of Missouri and Oklahoma with six fixed wing aircraft and 15 helicopters. EagleMed has bases at Chanute and six other Kansas cities.
Helicopters from Chanute serve Allen County, responding to accidents where hasty transport of severely injured patients to Allen County Hospital or metropolitan hospitals is required. It also ferries patients from ACH to metropolitan medical centers.
EagleMed helicopters are equipped with global positioning equipment and satellite-based communications. The company’s aircraft soon will be outfitted with night visible capabilities, making it important that ground-based responders know nighttime protocols.
“You should never point a light at an incoming helicopter,” Jones said. “The pilot can see lights on the ground and shining a light at the aircraft can lead to problems,” exacerbated when high vision goggles, which amplify available light several times over, are in use.
DECISIONS made by responders — firefighters, EMS personnel or law enforcement officers — determine when a helicopter is ordered, Jones said.
Allen County Rural Fire District No. 3, based in Savonburg, responds to calls in a 10-mile-by-10-mile area of the southeast part of the county; the 100 square miles encompasses a fifth of Allen County.
The department has 15 volunteers, including three who have been trained as first responders and another who is taking more advanced emergency medical training.
“We respond to severe accidents and medical emergencies, as well as fires,” Scott McNutt said. Training Saturday was to hone those skills.
Communicating with the helicopter about potential landing areas is essential, they were told.
Helicopters require a landing zone of about 100 feet on each side although, because of aerodynamics, the machines can descend straight down, Guilliams said.
Landing areas should be as close to the patient as safely possible and cleared of debris, which can otherwise be hurled in every direction by winds created by helicopter propellor blades, he noted.
When a helicopter lands it must be approached from the front, Jones said. He recalled a flight attendant who chased after records that blew from a helicopter, ran into the rear rotor blades and was killed.
“The rear rotor (on the tail) is only about a foot and a half off the ground and rotates three times faster than the main one, which makes it difficult to see,” he said.
The main blade is 11 feet of the ground and is of concern to those approaching only when it is slowing down, pitched by strong winds or when the helicopter is sitting on a pronounced slope.