Heights emergency management hosts medevac helicopter landing zone class

Photo by Robert Ankrapp

Photo by Robert Ankrapp

Midwest Medflight Flight Nurse Stacey Stengel discusses the skills and resources she uses on board the helicopter during the transport of patients.

HEIGHTS — Residents near Van Houten Park got a close-up view of one of the area’s newest and most technologically advanced lifesaving resources May 22, as a medevac helicopter and crew set down briefly in the park’s soccer field as part of a training exercise.

The Midwest Medflight helicopter and crew — based out of St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor — conducted the 2 1/2-hour class that focused on the safe setup of emergency landing zone sites for medevac helicopters. The class was run for members of the city’s Community Emergency Response Team.

“Like all resources of this type, we hope we never have a real-life incident where we need them” said Dearborn Heights Emergency Manager Bob Ankrapp, who organized the class for CERT volunteers. “But if we do experience an emergency that demands this type of service, it’s good to know we have a few more folks out there who are trained and able to help out.”

According to Ankrapp, several elements must come together – and quickly – to ensure the safe setup of an emergency landing zone site.

“The most obvious element, of course, is maintaining accurate radio communication with the flight crew as the aircraft is approaching the site” he said. “This would always be handled by our professional responders.”

“In addition to requiring a solid and relatively level (less than 5 degree tilt) surface, the immediate area must also be carefully scanned to ensure it is free of tall obstructions, such as trees, overhead wires, signs, utility poles, etc.,” Ankrapp said.

“During night landings, obstructions like these that are near the landing site must be made visible by a combination of auxiliary lights and flashers. The immediate site must also be ‘combed’ free of debris that could be blown around by the helocopter’s ‘wash’ (which can generate winds upwards of 70 mph) – as well as removing ‘standing’ debris – such as sticks, etc. – that could puncture the body of the aircraft as it lands.

The CERT group has approximately 80 members throughout the city who have completed a 22-hour “basics” course in emergency response procedures. For more information contact Ankrapp at (313) 277-7405, or rankrapp@ci.dearborn-heights.mi.us.