Keene firefighters this week received hands-on training to help pilots land helicopters safely when a patient needs to be transported by air to a hospital.
The three-day course was instructed by CareFlite Flight Paramedic Michael Farris.
“It’s a very dangerous job, to do what we do, and there are obviously several things that can go wrong,” Farris said. “Having that information of what we do, what to expect and what we need to be safe on the ground — we like that have that out there before they have that need to call for us.”
Keene Fire Chief Dan Warner said the department receives this training periodically.
“In the event of an emergency, things happy very quickly,” Warner said. “We need to be able to have it all preplanned and established on how we are going to get things done.”
During an emergency, Warner said firefighters will attempt to establish a landing zone in an area of 100 by 100 feet that is clear of obstructions, but it’s not always possible.
“In emergencies you don’t always get that advantage,” he said. “We have to deal with things such as power lines, tall buildings, towers and so forth. If we have to land an aircraft on a state highway, we are looking at highway signs and traffic.”
Most of the time the firefighters will be involved with the patient, but additional firefighters can work with the pilots to establish that landing zone.
After choosing an area, firefighters would describe to the pilot the landing site location, the patient’s status, weather conditions at the site and provide any other pertinent information that can aid the pilot and crew upon landing.
“It’s obviously a bad time when they need to call us and there is usually a tax on resources,” Farris said. “So they are bringing this dangerous resource and operation in and that’s not the time to sit down and learn this. So, we are just trying to get everybody familiar with us.
“Let them get around the aircraft, see what the wind feels like and what kind of problems it causes when we land. We land in fields sometimes, other times in neighborhoods or highways. They are learning what kind of weather we can fly in and what to expect when we land so they can know when they can or cannot utilize us.”