Portsmouth firefighters host air medical training

Participants in the training exercise inspect the Boston Med Flight helicopter at Roger Williams University’s Baypoint Residence Hall on Anthony Road in Portsmouth Wednesday.

PORTSMOUTH — The Portsmouth Fire Department hosted a air medical training event Wednesday with the goal of cutting down response times for rescue situations.

The training program was provided free of charge by Boston Med Flight at Roger Williams University’s Baypoint Residence Hall to more than 40 EMTs, firefighters and police officers from around the region.

The instructor, flight paramedic Robert Holst, provided instruction on when to use air medical services, how to establish and secure a landing zone, and general safety considerations when operating around helicopters.

“Air medical transport is designed to transport critically injured or ill patients to the most appropriate facility in the fastest way possible,” said Deputy Fire Chief Michael O’Brien. “The goal of the Portsmouth Fire Department is to minimize the amount of time between the injury and treatment at the most appropriate facility. For most critically injured and ill patients, traditional ground transport is the best option. Most areas in Portsmouth are within 30 minutes of a trauma center, stroke center, or cardiac care center.”

The Boston Med Flight helicopter touches down in the parking lot of Roger Williams University’s Baypoint Residence Hall during Wednesday’s training session.

The Boston Med Flight helicopter touches down in the parking lot of Roger Williams University’s Baypoint Residence Hall during Wednesday’s training session.

There are instances, however, where a helicopter is a better option, he said.

“Motor vehicle accidents are a common occurrence on the streets of Portsmouth; often extrication operations are required to remove victims,” said Deputy O’Brien. “The operations may take 30 to 60 minutes in some cases. During this time a helicopter can respond to a nearby landing zone, staged to provide immediate care to the victim. The helicopter can then transport the patient to a trauma center in a matter of a few minutes.”

There are 16 designated landing zones in Portsmouth and Prudence Island, strategically located with unique designations. Boston Med Flight, with helicopters as close as Plymouth Massachusetts, has these landing zones and their identifying designations on file.

“We only need to relay the patient information and the landing zone number; Boston Med Flight will know exactly where to respond,” said Deputy O’Brien.

There are two other providers of medical air transport in southern New England: UMASS Life Flight from Worcester and Life Star from Hartford. The three agencies are nonprofits that don’t compete against each other for service. When the closest agency is not available, they will coordinate the response of the next closest helicopter for the local department.

“Portsmouth Fire Department would like to thank Boston Med Flight who provided us with more than six employees and a helicopter, which flew in from Lawrence Mass. for the event,” said Deputy O’Brien. “We would especially like to thank Mary Arredondo, who is the education coordinator for Boston Med Flight.”

Roger Williams University provided the venue for the training without charge and allowed the medical helicopter to land on its property, he said.


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