They're not always needed, but when they are, it’s good to know they’re ready to help
That sums up the feeling of the Sedona Fire District in regard to Guardian Air emergency helicopters based at Verde Valley Medical Center in Cottonwood.
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“It’s so critical to what we do knowing they’re there for us,” SFD training officer Mike Duran said. “Especially when it comes to hiking out of the back country, it’s critical for that patient to get care as soon as possible. It’s reduces a lot of stress for everyone knowing that a flight crew is on its way during critical care emergencies.”
The two agencies met on Wednesday, Oct. 7, at Posse Grounds Park when pilot Kenan Bahadir and flight nurse Tammy Spetz landed after the short flight.
The meeting was designed as a question-and-answer session between the two agencies. Bahadir began by describing the type of landing zone they need. He said an area 100-feet by 100-feet is ideal for the 42-foot-long aircraft but added that they have landed on the much narrower Midgley Bridge with little trouble. He said on the ground, fire crews can inform them of any obstacles, wind conditions, as well as whether the ground is dry or soggy. If the ground is too wet, the 5,000-pound helicopter has a tendency to sink.
“You can never give us too much information,” he said.
The assistance goes both ways. Because of their vantage point, Spetz said the crew can often spot a better landing area or they can help direct ground crews to a specific area in the back country. When dark, the pilot uses night-vision goggles, which allows him or her to see emergency vehicle lights from miles away. But when they arrive on the scene, Bahadir said they ask that the lights be turned off because they become too bright when landing. That’s why the fire trucks are now equipped with emergency landing lights.
Another reason a large landing area is needed is because even though the helicopters can lift straight up, that uses much more power and is difficult on hot days or if they are carrying a heavy patient. Bahadir said they prefer to have a enough area to get a bit of a running start as they begin their gradual assent.
“One of the other things you guys can assist us with is being a tail guard,” Spetz said. “No matter where we’re at, this [helicopter] attracts people, which is why we need someone to watch the tail rotor and keep people away.”
Back-country rescues often result in Guardian Air being called due to the nature of the injuries. Bahadir said even if they have to wait for an hour or more, they’re willing to do so.
“We’d rather you call us and get us there, that way if needed, we’re ready to go,” he said.
Spetz agreed and added, “It’s always best to give us the heads up. That way we can get our stuff ready so we’re prepared to rock and roll. And if it turns out we’re not needed, that’s fine, too.”