DHART Training Seminar Takes Flight in Hudson

October 2, 2015


by Doug Robinson

You may never hear the whir of the rotors of the helicopter en route to save your life.

“Hudson LZ Command calling DHART 2.”

“DHART 2 to Hudson LZ Command.”

“Hudson Fire, read me.”

“Got you on.  Clear.  Two minutes distance to LZ.”

“We are located Hills House.  The site is clear.  There is a dumpster in the rear.  It is secure.  Engine 4, lights on, headlights facing wind.  Wind out of the east.  Speed unknown.”

“DHART 2 – Thank you.”

As Firefighter/Paramedic Tom Sullivan exited the cab of Engine 4, he said, “Stay behind me.”

As we walked to the edge of the field and faced the 75-foot-by-75-foot LZ (landing zone), the DHART 2 (Dartmouth Hitchcock Advanced Response Team) Medical Helicopter had begun to circle the fields of the Hills House in its approach to the LZ.  One pilot and two medical personnel staffed the helicopter and were traveling to Hudson for a hands-on training seminar with the Hudson Fire Department and an Alvirne High School class.

Joining the HFD was teacher Jane Colavito’s health sciences and tech students.  With the Hudson firefighters, they too were offered the opportunity to sit, climb, and ask any and all questions of the DART 2 professionals about their job and service to our community.

“The DHART medical crews are composed of critical care transport nurses, critical care paramedics, and respiratory care practitioners.  Each member of our crews possesses, on average, 16 years of critical care and/or EMS experience” writes dartmouth-hitchcock.org/dhart/dhart_crew.html.

The training seminar for the Hudson firefighters began with a one-hour classroom presentation.  All Hudson firefighters were participating in the training sessions which had been on-going for the previous week.

Firefighters not only learned helicopter protocol during an emergency landing, but they also learned about helicopter safety, patient safety, and public safety during the presentation.

DHART Communications Director Matthew Saur said, “While speed is a benefit of utilizing the DHART transport program, safety remains a guiding principal.  Safety is more than priority.  It’s a way of life.”

Based out of Lebanon and Manchester, N.H., DHART has the capability of responding to a medical emergency in Hudson within nine minutes (depending on weather).  Transport time to a trauma center in Boston, Mass., will take only 18 minutes.

The 40-foot helicopter with a 9-foot main rotor length cruises at a speed of 140-155 mph.  It is equipped with a search light and fix lights on the skids.  When traveling at night, DHART personnel wear night vision goggles to assist them.

The LZ (landing zone) needs vary from daytime and nighttime.  During the day, an area 75-feet-by-75-feet is necessary, while nighttime requirements are larger:  100 feet by 100 feet.  The final call to land the helicopter or not remains at the discretion of the pilot, and the helicopter is authorized to land on New Hampshire roads and highways when needed.

Emergency personnel are taught to make sure the LZ is “free of obstructions and debris.”  This instruction would include the back of pick-ups, dumpsters, items attached to car racks, and items within boats.  “The aircraft will generation down winds between 90 to 100 mph,” explained Saur.

“The take off and the landing are the most dangerous,” he continued.  “That is when most accidents occur.  Firefighters are encouraged to wet down loose dirt and are taught that “we do not fly over parked vehicles.  Power lines are our nemesis.  At night, tie a flashlight to a telephone pole and point the light up the pole so that we can see it.  Make sure the hoses attached to the beds of your trucks are also strapped down.  And, plastic bags.  If a plastic bag gets caught in our tail rotor, the helicopter will just spin, and that will not be good.”