Area firefighters drill procedures in hospital aircraft down exercise
The tones activated the morning of April 24 on the pagers of four area fire companies were both ominous and reassuring at the same time. While preceded by the audio “This is a drill,” the message followed that the training exercise involved a simulated “aircraft crash,” an alert for the type of emergency a first responder dreads.
But, that does not mean they dreaded the training. Simulations are designed to provide a practiced response, so the real thing would produce a professional and effective rescue effort.
Western Salisbury Volunteer Fire Company was the lead agency for the training exercise, in cooperation with the Lehigh Valley Health Network. The health network had arranged for a MedEvac helicopter to be staged in a remote parking area at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest, then surprised the network’s own emergency response personnel with an unfolding scenario.
Eastern Salisbury, Lower Macungie and South Whitehall’s Woodlawn fire stations also provided personnel and equipment for the emergency response training. Each of those companies would be dispatched for the real thing.
A Woodlawn tanker hooked into a Western Salisbury pumper, to provide an immediate water supply while firefighters practiced fire-suppressant procedures, discharging foam streams into a nearby detention pond rather than onto the expensive helicopter staged there.
Western Salisbury Fire Department Chief Joshua Wells critiqued the four-company response, and led a debriefing with firefighter participation.
MedEvac personnel provided hands-on training to the firefighters in emergency shut-down systems that would come into play if the helicopter pilot were disabled. An overview of the medical helicopter’s main systems provided a familiarization tour for the firefighters.
Both Wells and hospital emergency responders, as well as Salisbury Police Department command officers on scene, proclaimed the training exercise a valuable and worthwhile experience.