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Ten Lessons Learned From Hurricane Harvey

Posted 6 years 251 days ago ago by Admin

The following is a sidebar of Rotorcraft Pro's story on Hurricanes Hit - Helicopters Rise that outlines ten valuable lessons learned from the first responders that were on the ground in the days following Hurricane Harvey.

1. Think about roles and responsibilities in advance, and put safety first. “People can get into these disasters…and they start to take risks they wouldn’t take elsewhere,” Tom Baldwin, Air Evac Lifeteam safety manager said. Put an immediate stop to any of that. Debrief after every shift.

2. Structures designed to keep water out, will also keep water in. Numerous Houston and Beaumont neighborhoods feature levees built to keep out ocean surges during storms. But with Hurricane Harvey, record rainfall was the biggest factor. Without pumps, rainwater filled up neighborhoods inside the levees like bathtubs. (Mark Thomas, air interdiction agent for U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations or AMO)

3. Have a detailed plan before arriving at disaster sites. Where will your crews get fuel, sleep, and park their helicopters? It’s a fine line between being too close to the floodwaters and too far from victims. (Mark Thomas)

4. Many Air Methods teammates had experience responding to previous natural disasters. Operations Section Chief Eric Schreiner, for example, started off as a line pilot and responded to Hurricane Katrina. He learned that there was a lot of waiting and a lot of the unknown. He said it’s important to communicate the stuff the teams need to know. Most importantly, he let pilots know that flexibility is the biggest tool they could have.

5. “You’ve got to over-communicate to the crews and to make sure what you’re communicating is accurate,” Schreiner said. “There is so much information coming in, and you have to verify it. You have to get the facts and only the facts because other decisions are being based on that information. Also, flexibility is very important. It’s not always going to be the best case scenario.”

6. NVG capability is valuable. During Hurricane Katrina, no night air rescue operations were conducted. Now they are possible with training and technological advances. (Tom Baldwin, Air Evac Lifeteam safety manager)

7. Think on your feet and make do. When Beaumont was left without an operating airport tower, one of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Air and Marine Operations pilots whipped out a hand-held radio to help keep helicopters separated at the airport when they were coming in to get fuel. (AMO Public Affairs Liaison Matt Noble)

8. Bring multi-mission-capable aircraft and learn how to adapt on scene. “We’re coming in better equipped, we’re coming in smarter and we’re a whole lot safer than 30 years ago,” said Patrick Pilolla, the director of business development for CHI Aviation who has been in the industry for more than three decades.

9. Come prepared with at least three or four days of supplies including food, water, batteries and fuel. Bring plenty of cash, too; many businesses in disaster areas won’t take credit cards because they have no electricity. (David McColl, Air2 pilot)

10. During Hurricane Katrina in 2005, air ambulances responded directly to calls from small hospitals. These days, be prepared to work under the communications and direction of a National Command Center. (Tom Baldwin, Air Evac Lifeteam safety manager)