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“Well in advance of Irma’s landfall, Air Methods set up an emergency operations/ control flight center in Fort Myers (also in west-central Florida) at its LeeFlight base,” said Matt Turner, Air Methods’ area manager for Central Florida. Air Methods used the LeeFlight AMS base to stage resources brought in from outside of Florida for deployment in the state pre-storm and post-storm. A fixed-wing Pilatus aircraft was also brought in to help transport patients before Irma hit.


“Irma then turned west and was headed directly at us, so our regional leadership quickly decided to change direction even as we were in the middle of implementing our plan,” Turner said. “So we evacuated all our local assets, because no one knew whether Irma was going to go up the east coast, west coast, or right up the middle of the state.”


Staying one step ahead of Irma’s changing path, Bayflite moved north to Air Methods’ base at Bob Sikes Airport in Crestview, Florida. This base is located well up in


Florida’s western panhandle just about 100 miles east of Mobile, Alabama. “We evacuated our staff and assets up to Crestview, which proved to be far less vulnerable to Irma’s wrath,” Turner said. Mark the score: Bayflite 1, Irma 0.


As soon as Hurricane Irma passed through Florida, Bayflite and its Air Methods’ sister services scrambled to get back into the air. “We had to do damage assessment surveys at our three bases in Brooksville (Hernando County), Tampa (Hillsborough County), and North Port (Sarasota County),” Turner said. “We had to make sure that they all had power, internet, and running water, to ensure that it was a safe return to service.” The company also checked other Air Methods bases it uses, such as Air Methods’ LifeNet 5 AMS base at Bartow Municipal Airport in Bartow (Polk County), Florida.


As it turned out, the LifeNet 5 base sustained serious damage during Irma and required immediate repairs. “Our Air Methods crew members showed up


and asked, ‘What can we do to help?’” Turner said. “We worked with them to find alternate locations for the LifeNet 5 AMS crew to fly from, and moved LifeNet 5’s operations from its original building that had suffered storm damage to another one. Granted, we had to power the second Bartow building with a generator due to the power lines being down, but we were soon back in operation.”


Even today, Turner can’t get over how Air Methods’ people (including those with Bayflite) stepped up to get the air ambulance service back into operation. “They came out to help, even though many of them had no power at home and serious damage/debris issues to deal with,” he said. “Our people came to work nevertheless. They got Bayflite and our sister Air Methods’ AMS units operational and back to doing what we do best, which is transporting patients safely from incident scenes to hospitals, and from one hospital to another in Central Florida. It was truly an amazing, inspiring team effort!”


40


Sep/Oct 2017


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