Members of the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department recently participated in helicopter landing safety training.
Since there is no emergency medical care on the island other than that of EMT response, many emergency medical patients are flown off throughout the year.
Most of these patients are flown by EastCare, a critical care air and ground transport service based at Vidant Medical Center in Greenville, typically about a 35 minute flight.
With each one of these calls, the OVFD sets up the landing zone, provides fire protection in case of an emergency, and assists with the care and loading of patients being flown off.
From April to October, there were 37 medevacs, said Dick Jacoby, president of the Ocracoke Fire Protection Association. By comparison, during the same time last year, there were 19 medevacs, he said.
At the October session, three members of the Vidant emergency response team trained the OVFD volunteers. The company has 29 volunteers on its roster, Jacoby said.
Michael Sutton, the Communication Center supervisor for Vidant Health, presented a “landing zone” safety class covering an overview of EastCare, landing zone identification, communication, hazards, safety and helicopter scene operations.
Juan Terrasa, a pilot for EastCare, provided general information about the two types of EastCare helicopters that fly to Ocracoke.
He covered power shut down procedures, fuel cut offs, battery location, and oxygen storage. Location of emergency exit/entry points in a case of a hard landing were pointed out.
He also emphasized patient loading procedures and the danger of the helicopter rotors.