Nearly 70 members of the Weston Volunteer Fire Department (WVFD) and EMS attended a helicopter training session at the Norfield firehouse on Thursday, Jan. 14.
The session featured drills with a running helicopter, and a PowerPoint presentation.
“Everyone was really excited about having the actual helicopter here,” said Mark Blake, spokesman for WVFD. “It was like being a little kid and seeing a fire truck for the first time — it was a real eye-opening experience.”
The training was set up by Blake through SkyHealth, a regional provider of emergency helicopter services. It was open only to members of WVFD and EMS.
“This helicopter is part of the Yale-New Haven health system and is predominantly used by Bridgeport,” said Blake, adding that the main use for such helicopters is transporting patients from one hospital to another but that they have been known to fly people from accident sites to hospitals.
“Say you have a big car accident, or, God forbid, a multi-casualty incident. A helicopter can get people to the hospital much faster than an ambulance,” said Blake.
He said that if, for example, there was an accident at the intersection of Valley Forge Road and Godfrey Road, it might take 25 minutes to get to the closest hospital by ambulance, but only 10 by helicopter.
While there hasn’t been an incident that has called for a helicopter in Weston in more than 20 years, Blake said, this type of training is “absolutely beneficial.”
“This is just another resource for us to use,” said Blake, mentioning that an injury incident in Devil’s Den may be more easily accessible by helicopter than by ambulance.
During the training session, attendees learned how to set up landing zones for the helicopter, how to properly open the helicopter’s doors and how to load patients into the aircraft.
“The firefighters and EMTs were working together at the drill,” said Blake. “They were bringing simulated patients to the helicopter and loading them in. I think they gained a lot of respect for what the helicopter crew has to do given their limited space.”
The drills were completed while the helicopter was on to give the full experience of what each person might have to deal with. Blake called the drills “extremely realistic.”
“You get the pressure in your ears when you’re close to the chopper,” said Blake. “It’s a dramatic experience.”
Blake set up the helicopter event at night for a reason. He said the protocol is very different from how the department would use the helicopter in the day. Blake hopes to bring the helicopter back for a daytime lesson in the spring, and would ideally like to open the event to the public.
The helicopter used is one of only a few that service the state of Connecticut. According to Blake, there are different services for the Hartford and eastern areas of the state. The helicopter at the drill is stationed nightly on Long Island and covers southern Connecticut and Westchester County and Long Island, N.Y.
“Helicopters are being used more than ever before,” said Blake. “It’s a really great learning opportunity, and we were happy to see so many people come out for it.”