While training with the LifeNet of the Heartland and its helicopters, Kylie Wagner said the Hooper Volunteer Fire Department learned some tips they weren’t previously aware of.
“Like ball caps, you wouldn’t want your ball cap sucked up into the engine and flown off,” the squad captain said. “So it was a lot of safety stuff that in the midst of working a car accident or a trauma of any type.”
On Monday, the Hooper Volunteer Fire Department and other area departments took part in a safety and training class by LifeNet, which has bases in Omaha, Columbus and Norfolk.
Although she remembered her father taking classes with LifeNet long ago, Wagner said the department hadn’t had training for a while until one of its emergency medical technicians attended one and recommended it.
“Their outreach person reached out to us on Facebook and asked if I wanted to set up a drill,” she said. “And so I think it was probably February or March, we set it up for this.”
Wagner said training with LifeNet was important as one of its bases was moved from Fremont to Columbus earlier this year.
“So typically it was like 10 minutes we could get the helicopter. Now, it could be 30 depending on where it’s coming from,” she said. “So we need to put them on standby before and just be good about rollovers.”
Along with departments from Nickerson, Winslow and Uehling, Wagner said Hooper Fire members learned landing zone safety in working with LifeNet.
“It covered aircraft safety, what to do around the aircraft and basically more or less what not to do around the aircraft,” she said. “If we have to land on a highway, we have to be sure we have the troopers or the county shut down both sides of the highway so then there’s no impediment.”
Wagner said the LifeNet representatives had years of experience and provided the participants with safety tips along the way.
“They’ve seen a lot, they know a lot, a wealth of information, and answered any questions, brought up information that people didn’t think to even ask,” she said.
During the class, LifeNet did a practice run with the departments at Redeemer Lutheran Church, with the participants having to let the pilot know what the landing area looked like.
“It was stuff that we needed to communicate on the radio to them of what to be aware of and information they want, what we have for information that isn’t really necessary right then, but when they get in the back of a squad, we’ll give them information for,” she said. “So it was a good refresher and a reminder of what they need, what we need and what we need to do for them, that kind of thing.”
Wagner said the firefighters learned the importance of communication. During training, she said a glitch resulted in the pilot and the firefighters ending up on two different radio frequencies.
“With some of the places we go, because we’re covering so much and helping so much with Nickerson now especially on squad calls, and it depends also on the topography of the area, if we’re more in a bowl, it’s really hard for our radios to kind of get out and talk with LifeNet to hit our repeater,” Wagner said.
The firefighters also learned about an app they can use to give the pilot GPS coordinates.
“Also, if we have problems with communication, we can contact their hub and it’s like playing telephone, but you can make it work,” Wagner said.
Additionally, the teams learned that a helicopter that arrives on one day may be different from one that arrives the next, Wagner said.
“In one, they might have access from the whole body, so they could do most things on the whole body,” she said. “But in others, it might be from the waist up, so they might need to do a little bit more prep work before they transfer the patient over.”
Wagner said the firefighters also had to learn to prepare for if LifeNet is unable to make the journey due to weather and needs to use another transportation source.
“That was the big thing all the way around with the class, was safety is always key, safety of them, safety of the patients, safety of the aircraft. Because no one wants to have more than what we have to have,” she said.
Overall, Wagner said the class was a nice refresher and source of new information for the departments involved on LifeNet.
“They might take a little bit more time on scene on some aspects,” she said, “but they’re really trying to make sure the job’s easier a little bit later, that they’ve got all their bases covered.”