July 17th ARES Training – Review

Setting the Landing Zone parameters

Once again, Centralia ARES is partnering with Riverside Fire Authority and Airlift Northwest in a training exercise scheduled for Monday, August 7th, 2017.  The scenario is based on a near fatal incident that occurred during last year’s Southwest Washington Fair where a father and daughter were injured by a frightened horse, requiring emergency medical attention from on site personnel, transport to the hospital and airlift by helicopter.  With the fair approaching in a few weeks, Riverside Fire and Centralia ARES designed a training exercise to make sure all personnel are fully briefed for this type of response.

During the August 7th exercise, Riverside Fire personnel will respond to a similar scenario where they will evaluate, treat and stabilize a patient for immediate transport by Airlift Northwest.  Centralia ARES’ assignment will be to select a helicopter landing zone as near to the incident as possible and prepare it for helicopter arrival.

Coordinating Latitude & Longitude information

During our July 17th training exercise, the ARES team performed a complete run through of our helicopter landing zone procedures.  Team members selected a site – a grass field near the south end of the fairgrounds, and measured out the 100′ x 100′ landing zone in the middle of the field.  Large, orange cones with FRED (Flashing Roadside Emergency Disks) lights on top were placed at the four corners of the LZ.  An additional two cones and lights indicated wind direction. Notes were made of all overhead obstacles, which included trees and power lines.  After determining exact Latitude and Longitude in the center of the LZ, the team did a search of the area for foreign objects that could be hazardous if blown around by rotor wash.  Finally, each team member prepared a briefing which would be radioed to the Airlift pilot as the aircraft approaches.  Landing zone coordinator, James Van Ornum, AE7TF, then selected several team members to give their pilot briefings over the air (VHF simplex) to the communications officer Jim Pace, K7CEX, standing in during this exercise for the Airlift crew.

With several pilots within the ARES team, our debrief came up with some important changes to the pilot’s briefing that should make locating the LZ much easier from the air.  Much of the debriefing time included safety information important to everyone. Hearing and eye protection, escape routes should something fail with the helicopter, blocking all vehicle entrances around the LZ, safe zones for all personnel, frequency assignments (both amateur and fire) and how to initiate a “wave off” were just a few of the topics.  For our newer team members, especially, this was important as it has been two years since we were last able to exercise our landing zone procedures with a real helicopter.

Foreign object sweep of the landing zone.

During the actual August 7th exercise, Centralia ARES will not only be responsible for setting up the landing zone but will be the prime communications link with the aircraft as it approaches and lands.  After it is safely on the ground and shut down, both fire and ARES personnel will get briefings from the pilot, who will discuss what he needs for a safe landing area, and the flight nurse, who will cover patient preparation for evacuation.  Once that is all done, the ARES LZ Coordinator will clear the landing zone and, once secure, will advise the helicopter when it is safe to depart.

The value of working closely with Riverside Fire personnel as well as the great Airlift Northwest professionals is immense and it gives the ARES team a chance to test their training in a more realistic situation.  Next up, the August 7th event.