Notes Medevac Aircraft Critical To Gustav Evacuation,
the industry's reputation has been tarnished in recent months by a
spate of tragic accidents, including a fatal helicopter downing
last weekend... the Association of Air Medical Services notes
medevac aircraft are vital for saving lives, particularly during
times of national crisis.
For example, the AAMS says air medical services participating in
the evacuation of hospitals and other medical facilities before the
arrival of Hurricane Gustav transported more than 150 patients
utilizing more than 60 helicopter and fixed wing aircraft, and are
currently gearing up to return many of those patients to Gulf Coast
cities in the wake of the hurricane.
Air Medical transports, utilizing both helicopter and fixed wing
assets, transported patients very long distances as the storm
approached, and continued aiding in evacuation efforts until the
weather deteriorated to unsafe levels.
Numerous air medical services representatives stated that state
and federal coordination of the evacuation and the disaster
response is considerably improved. Both state disaster management
plans and the federal ambulance disaster response contract were
activated, providing various facilities with options for transport.
While the systems in place are vastly improved, there were some
constraints as many facilities decided to evacuate shortly before
the hurricane made landfall.
Air-medical providers performed numerous helicopter transports
of ICU and emergency department patients, including transports by
pediatric/neonatal specialty teams to move children and infants
born prematurely. As communities and infrastructures return
to normal, air-medical providers and their ground EMS colleagues
are assisting with the return of patients.
"The coordination of air-medical assets is much better than in
the past, however, there are still areas of improvement that have
been identified," said Shawn Salter, Director of Clinical
Operations, San Antonio AirLIFE, one of the many air medical
services involved in the Texas evacuation. "Following the wrap-up
of Hurricane Gustav efforts, an after-action review will provide an
opportunity for continued improvement."
Coordinating with state EMS offices and according to existing
disaster management plans, many of which developed following the
tremendous air medical response to Hurricane Katrina, air medical
services are an indispensable component of evacuation and recovery
efforts. Transporting the sickest and most critically injured
individuals, air medical services can provide a high level of care
over much longer distances in a much shorter amount of time than
ground ambulances, an important asset when moving already critical
patients from oncoming danger.
Air medical services demonstrated this ability in the evacuation
and response to Hurricane Gustav... and continue to prepare for the
probable landfall of Hurricanes Hannah and Ike.