Good Luck

August 23rd, 2019

ems helicopter classLocal emergency workers get shown the inside of a medical flight helicopter during a helicopter safety course Thursday evening. The course covered not only the parts of the helicopter but also how to prepare a landing zone for a patient and other information. L&T photo/Elly GrimmELLY GRIMM• Leader & Times


Calls for medical flights come from dispatch to emergency crews all the time and while patient care is paramount, it is also important for emergency crews to make sure they stay safe around the aircraft. 

Thursday evening, emergency personnel in Liberal got to learn about just that thanks to a class from medical flight partner Apollo based out of Texas. After spending some time outside and learning about the helicopter itself, crews went back inside to learn some safety advice from instructor Dondie Rodgers about being around the aircraft as well as how to prepare a landing zone for the occasion of a medical flight needing to come in. 

“I thought it went great, there was great information and it’s always awesome getting to know our neighbors,” EMS Director John Ralston said of the class. 

“I agree totally, it was a great presentation and a great way to meet some of the emergency personnel in Liberal we hadn’t gotten to meet before,” Apollo Regional Business Development Manager Brett Hicks added. “I know Dondie’s come up here a few times but it was overall great getting to fellowship with the Liberal emergency staff too.”

Both Hicks and Ralston also emphasized the importance of these types of classes for emergency crews. 

“With classes like this, we’re bridging with another sister agency because these guys do the same thing we do, just in a slightly different fashion. With us in Liberal, we do have a very capable hospital but there are times when they can’t fully handle the criticality of certain types of patients, so we need to get them somewhere that can handle that,” Ralston said. “Then out on a scene consisting of multiple patients who might be better off going to definitive care facilities like Amarillo to minimize the load on the hospital if there are a lot, you need to spread those patients out so there’s more people to be there for their care when they get there. This program brings it to where we can do those emergency flights and spread some of that out because if there is a disaster situation you don’t want to bottleneck one facility with all of those patients and they have to be spread out a bit.”

“It goes back to what John was just saying about that face-to-face interaction earlier this evening – the first time you see some patients, it’s also the first time they’ve seen a helicopter come in here,” Hicks added. “We want to know we’ve already talked to these personnel about the safety issues and how we can work with them.”

The face-to-face interaction, Ralston said, is one of the things he hoped his crew members took away from the evening. 

“The big thing in our business is the face-to-face stuff, that’s the best. You don’t want to see someone for the first time ever when you’re at the car accident or when they’re sick or in bad shape,” Ralston said. “You want to get to know them somewhat prior to that and know their faces, especially the ones we talk to on the radios most when they’re flying over, that’s always a good thing. Getting everyone out here to learn those processes is also important and for some of my crew, this is their first landing zone class and others have taken it nearly a dozen times. But it’s always good information because each year, we get more experience doing what we do and they get more experience doing what they do, so they’ve seen more things to enhance the landing zone classes and through trial and error, we’ll all get it right one of these days.”

“I hope they took away some knowledge about helicopter safety and who Apollo is too,” Hicks said. “This is what we do, this is how we’ve come around and now they know we really are out and about wanting to teach communities about the helicopter itself and the safety needed around it.”

Besides the patient care being provided, both Hicks and Ralston talked about other benefits of this partnership. There are also memberships available with Apollo, and those interested in that information can call 806-322-4448. 

“We actually have a gentleman in Texas who works in a rural town and has been able to use some of the knowledge he’s gained from working with Apollo and he’s become a certified flight medic recently, so it’s really beneficial,” Hicks said. 

“I’ve been working with Dondie for a while now and I worked with a director or two before her. But we work with them on a regular basis through the actual transfer flights but not much with 911 because that was a fixed wing and there are places you can’t land if it’s that type of aircraft,” Ralston said. “Now we’re just adding another partner to that medical flight relationship to where there’s different pieces to help. One of the things that’s changed during the years has been there’s a more diverse population now of workers. Getting faces in front of people, this might be something someone ends up wanting to do as a career or something similar. We get nurses who start working with the medical flights more, same with paramedics, and this gives them that avenue of working with people to do that. Some of these services rely heavily on part-time staff because that’s a 24/7 job just like ours is.”

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