Helicopter Flight from London Grove
January 22, 2023

When you serve the community as a fire department, you train for nearly any emergency to occur, and the unexpected is always expected. Such was the case on Saturday, when an ambulance call turned into the need to safely land an EMS helicopter in a school parking lot.

The West Grove Fire Company was dispatched for a medical emergency with Medic 94 on Saturday morning just past 8:00am in the Preserve at Inniscrone neighborhood off of State Road. WGFC EMS and Avondale EMS assisted at the scene. The patient, who was recently treated at the Hershey Medical Center, urgently needed to return to the hospital and paramedics determined that rapid transport was needed. A ground ambulance trip would take at least an hour and 30 minutes.

A helicopter transport was determined to be best course of action. With that determined, additional dispatches occurred. The Chester County 911 Center alerted LifeNet at the Christiana Hospital, the closest aeromedical helicopter service. And the WGFC sent Engine 22-2 to ascertain a landing zone for the helicopter. The response of the engine was accelerated as a team of volunteers was on station Saturday morning in New London and started the engine response toward the call to assist the ambulance as it was the second ambulance call in the district even before the helicopter was dispatched. Interestingly, the on station staff also helped to assist for a third ambulance call in New London Township a few minutes later.

The WGFC has used the large parking lot at the Avon Grove Middle School for this purpose before, but arriving units found it full of cars for a weekend event.

As such, the parking lot at the Avon Grove Charter School on State Road was selected. Engine 22-2 arrived an established a landing zone in the parking lot, marking off an area with traffic cones and set up a safety zone around the area. The engine communicated with LifeNet 61 as it approached the scene, alerting the pilot to hazards on the ground, including power lines along State Road and trees near the landing zone. Fire police assisted with blocking off access to the Charter School parking lots.

The helicopter landed quickly and its medical crew - a flight paramedic and flight nurse - unloaded their equipment and moved to Ambulance 23 to assess the patient and transfer care. While this was occurring, the helicopter -- a Eurocopter MBB BK117 -- remained running with its pilot on board. In a matter of minutes, the patient was transferred to the LifeNet 61 stretcher and loaded into the helicopter. Once on board, the helicopter was airborne and quickly enroute to the Hershey Medical Center.

Rather than a 90 minute ambulance trip through the busy Lancaster area, the patient was in the emergency room of the Hershey Medical Center just 25 minutes later. While not a regular occurrence, the WGFC trains for helicopter operations and the unit crews from ambulances, medic units, fire engines, and the helicopter worked seamlessly together to assure a fast transport for this patient.

For more information about LifeNet, see: https://christianacare.org/services/emergency/lifenet/ and https://www.facebook.com/christianalifenet/

Units: Ambulance 22, Engine 22-2, Fire Police
Mutual Aid: Ambulance 23, Medic 94, LifeNet 61