Eclipse traffic could make for busy day for Life Flight

Solar eclipse will happen August 21, 2017

A Life Flight helicopter pilot, August 14, 2017 (KOIN)
A Life Flight helicopter pilot, August 14, 2017 (KOIN)

AURORA, Ore. (KOIN) — With perhaps 1 million people expected to visit Oregon and pack the roads for the solar eclipse, first responders are getting ready for extra emergencies.

Search-and-rescue crews are on alert, and hospitals — especially those closest to the path of totality — are preparing for a tidal wave of humanity.

Crews with Life Flight are also making plans on how to deal with any medical emergencies that will arise throughout the day.

Life Flight will have  aircraft  ready, positioned throughout the state, including Newport, Lincoln City, Aurora, Salem and Lebanon.

The inside of a LifeFlight helicopter, August 14, 2017 (KOIN)
The inside of a LifeFlight helicopter, August 14, 2017 (KOIN)

There will also be additional crews in Redmond and Baker City.

“For us, we’re going to treat it no different than any other emergency response,” said Life Flight Network Regional Director Jake Dalstra. “When somebody gets hurt or injured, they’re going to contact the emergency system and then they will contact us and we will work with them to land our helicopter.

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Life Flight officials expect to use the helicopter to get more patients to care quickly because they can land in more spots. But campers may be in normally landable places, so Life Flight has been working with local fire and police departments and EMS outlets to know where the campers are and how best to respond.

“In our industry there’s something that’s called ‘The Golden Hour,’ Dalstra said. “If we can get (patients) into a trauma center in under an hour, their chances of morbidity or mortality decreases significantly.”

The inside of a LifeFlight helicopter, August 14, 2017 (KOIN)
The inside of a LifeFlight helicopter, August 14, 2017 (KOIN)

There won’t be a traffic jam just on the ground, either. There will be more aircraft in the skies that day, too.

Wildfires are another factor.

“One of the concerns would be if there’s smoke from the wildfires and the helicopters can’t fly the distances they need to. The planes are ready to fly at a moment’s notice,” said Justin Dillingham, the chief customer officer for the Life Flight Network. “There’s also the possibility that some patients may need to be transported out of the area is local hospitals are at capacity,” adding Spokane, Reno or Seattle are possibilities.

Dillingham said patients that may normally be taken to a hospital by ambulance may be airlifted. “We know we may be the only responders because they cannot get there or their resources are tied up.”

Complete Coverage: Oregon Solar Eclipse

Life Flight may also need to transport items like blood and supplies if hospitals suffer a shortage.

But for Flight Nurse Brian Rogge, it’ll just be another day at work.

“A number of us have volunteered to work extra shifts and kind of help support, so I’ll be one of the additional crews in Redmond,” Rogge told KOIN 6 News.

“I’m not exactly sure what to expect. I do this kind of every day for a living, respond to emergencies, and so that’s kind of what I’m preparing for is a normal day at work.”

A Life Flight airplane, August 14, 2017 (KOIN)
A Life Flight airplane, August 14, 2017 (KOIN)