By Angela Hill
Meadows of Dan residents may have noticed the thumping of a helicopter on Thursday, June 30. While the distinct sound often signals a medical emergency, this visit was part of a wilderness survival drill.
A three-member crew from Radford’s Carillion Clinic Lifeguard 11—pilot, flight paramedic and flight nurse—spent the afternoon seeking water, throwing up primitive shelter, and building a fire on the property of Meadows of Dan residents Ralph, Hope and Debbie Barnard.
Ralph Barnard was Meadows of Dan’s first fire chief.
“It was great. They did an excellent job … And the homeowners were very hospitable, very polite, very easy to work with,” said Charlotte Clark, who stayed with the ground crew as Roanoke’s Carillion Clinic Lifeguard safety officer.
She said they landed in a hayfield, and used a nearby wooded area to forage downed trees for shelter and fire (clearing everything with the fire marshal first).
Designed to supplement classroom wilderness survival training with hands-on experience, the drill begins with the pilot simulating an aircraft mechanical problem. The pilot then performs a precautionary landing, and the crew is left to fend for themselves. A back-up pilot, nurse and paramedic fly the helicopter away.
The communications centers don’t realize at first that it’s a drill. “One purpose for the drill is it trains our communications centers in the steps they have to follow in a real emergency,” Clark said. The June 30 exercise went through the Roanoke center.
Each of Carillion’s clinics in Radford, Lexington and Hardy chooses a different location for the biannual drill. The Patrick County training was coordinated by Lucian Belcher, a Patrick County EMS volunteer and EMS career staffer in Floyd County.
Clark added that while medical transport flights to Patrick County don’t happen often, the Radford base is only an 11-minute flight away. “We’re that close if they need us.”
By Angela Hill
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