Commentary and information about public safety and security, intelligence and counterintelligence, open government and secrecy, and other issues in northern Idaho and eastern Washington.

Location: Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, United States

Raised in Palouse, WA. Graduated from Washington State University. US Army (Counterintelligence). US Secret Service (Technical Security Division) in Fantasyland-on-the-Potomac and Los Angeles. Now living in north Idaho.

Friday, September 30, 2005

"Launch MedStar"

Those of us who live in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, are accustomed to regularly seeing a yellow, green and white helicopter arriving and departing from Kootenai Medical Center's rooftop landing zone. The helicopters, Eurocopter model EC-135, are used as medical transport helicopters by Northwest MedStar and operate from bases in Spokane, Tri-Cities, and Moses Lake, Washington. In addition to the helicopter flight crew, MedStar's on-board medical team includes both a registered nurse and a registered respiratory therapist.

It is common to be listening to our local emergency medical service radio frequency (155.805 MHz, designated "EMS-3") and hear an outlying volunteer fire department on-scene commander, an emergency medical technician, or a paramedic call in to Kootenai County central dispatch and say, "Put MedStar on standby." If that message is soon followed by another that says, "Launch MedStar," it is almost always because the victim of accident or illness has a critical medical condition that requires faster delivery to an area hospital than surface ambulance service can provide. In some instances, MedStar will be requested because the victim is in an area inaccessible to surface ambulances.

There is risk in operating medical transport service helicopters. The Seattle Post Intelligencer reports in its Friday, September 30, 2005, edition that an Airlift Northwest medical helicopter with one pilot and two nurses but no patient went down in the Puget Sound north of Edmonds late Thursday night killing all three on board. (Whitecaps note: This was not a MedStar helicopter.)

To minimize the risks to patients, flight crews, and people on the ground, Northwest MedStar has provided portable GPS equipment to northern Idaho first-responders. Northwest MedStar also provides site-specific training to first responders so they can clearly, concisely, and effectively communicate and work with incoming MedStar teams. Examples of what first-responders need to know is available on the Technical Information pages of Northwest MedStar's webpage. The information available there includes:
  • How first-responders on the ground should direct the helicopter to the landing zone and report the condition of the landing zone to the helicopter
  • Safety procedures that must be followed in the landing zone
  • Determining patient destination and loading the patient into the aircraft

This post is not a commercial promotion for Northwest MedStar. Rather, it is intended to inform readers about one very critical element of emergency medical service response in northern Idaho.

More information about MedStar is available at the Deaconess Medical Center Emergency Air Service webpage.

For those interested in monitoring MedStar's radiocommunications, obtain their authorized operating frequencies at the FCC Callsign Query webpage. Type "WNCT261" (without the quotation marks) in the red Callsign block and then click on the Submit Query block. It's a 19-page file that should automatically download. Be patient; it takes a few seconds.


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