New aero-medical safety features at HCM
In March, Hill Country Memorial marked the completion of a months-long initiative to update and improve its aviation infrastructure for the safety of patients, staff and air medical partners.
The hospital generates more than 100 air medical flights annually, and each is a carefully coordinated operation between the HCM Emergency Department and the flight team. Air medical services provide rapid transport of critically ill or severely injured patients for stabilization and further care.
“The safety of our patients and the flight crews transporting them is of paramount importance to us,” said Mark Wilkinson, R.N., HCM Emergency Management Coordinator. “The modifications we’ve made to the HCM heliport greatly improve our operational safety.”
In 2016 HCM requested an evaluation from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to identify necessary elements to improve the hospital’s existing helipad. As a result of the FAA’s recommendations, the 1,600-square-foot concrete helipad was repainted with special reflective paint and more distinctive markings in November.
In February, high-intensity LED lighting was installed at each of the pad’s corners to direct light down to the landing area for visibility along with night-vision compatible green perimeter lighting.
Additionally, the heliport lighting can now be controlled directly by the pilot by clicking on the helicopter’s radio microphone while on approach to HCM. The old helipad lights were manually operated by an emergency department staff member inside the hospital. This new feature saves time for HCM and flight team members alike.
“Minutes matter in an emergency,” said paramedic Chase Schriewer, program director at Air Evac Lifeteam, an air ambulance service. “To be able to automatically activate the lights and clearly see the helipad saves us time and effort so we can focus on the patient and keep everyone safe.”
Other new safety features include a new windsock installed in a more visible location on top of the Perry-Feller Professional Building. The new windsock is larger and is internally lit for visibility at night and during inclement weather, and more accurately reflects wind speed and direction that are critical elements in air medical operations.
Nine orange obstruction markers were installed on the utility lines along Hwy. 16 in front of the hospital so that helicopter crews can more easily identify local hazards.
“As a total package, these improvements very positively impact our overall emergency operations and reflect HCM’s commitment to safety for our patients, team members and partners” said Wilkinson.