Bluebonnet, PHI Air Medical enter potentially life-saving partnership

Billy Rice, a flight paramedic with PHI Air Medical, helps train Bluebonnet crews to work with the company's air ambulance.

PHI Air Medical Flight Paramedic Bill Rice helps train Bluebonnet crews to work with the company’s air ambulance.

Working around, and with, electricity and heavy equipment is dangerous. If an accident happens, swift medical care can make the difference between life and death.

Bluebonnet’s crews often work in rural, hard-to-reach places, miles from a hospital. Emergency responders could be minutes – or an hour – away. The nearest Level I trauma centers, where the most critically injured are taken, are in Houston, Austin and San Antonio, at least an hour away by ambulance, but mere minutes away by helicopter.

That’s why Bluebonnet has partnered with PHI Air Medical, one of the nation’s leading air ambulance providers, to respond if an employee is critically injured on the job.

“The reality of our business is that on-the-job injuries might need specialized medical care quickly,” said Robert Thompson, Bluebonnet’s safety manager. “And the reality of our service area is that local EMS might not be able to make it to an injured person in a timely manner. PHI can.”

Thompson emphasized that local emergency responders will still be contacted and dispatched immediately in the event of an injury. But now, Bluebonnet crews are training with PHI’s flight crews to determine when the air ambulance is needed. Thompson said the training includes identifying life-threatening injuries that require air transport, such as a burn, an electric-contact wound or a compound fracture. Crews are also learning how to directly communicate with flight crews, identify and ready a landing site, coordinate a landing, assist flight crews and safely work around the helicopter.

“God forbid, if an injury occurs in the field, personnel make a mayday call to our control center,” Thompson said. “The control center calls local EMS and, if needed, the dispatch number for PHI. If a helicopter is available, it’s dispatched and the flight crew contacts the Bluebonnet crew at the scene by radio.”

PHI’s and Bluebonnet’s radios have been programmed to communicate with each other.

From even the most remote parts of our service area, air ambulances are less than a half-hour away. Their bases are in Cedar Creek and Bryan/College Station.

“Once we receive a call, we can be in the air in about 8 minutes,” said James “Scooter” Green, one of PHI’s flight paramedics based in Cedar Creek. “Once in the air, we can reach the furthest location in Bluebonnet’s service area in about 15 minutes.”

Green, who has worked for PHI for 15 years, said the company’s helicopters normally carry two hours of fuel and fly at 140 mph. At that speed, they can reach the Level 1 trauma centers at Austin’s University Medical Center at Brackenridge, San Antonio Military Medical Center and Houston’s Memorial Hermann Hospital in just minutes, and are a little more than an hour from Parkland Hospital in Dallas.

PHI’s three-person flight crews consist of a pilot, whose sole responsibility is to fly the helicopter, a flight nurse and a flight paramedic. For more information, go to phiairmedical.com.

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About Will Holford

Have you ever wondered about the future of electric use? Perhaps you’re curious about how some global or national events might impact your power, the environment or your bill? Maybe you’re just interested in what’s going on at Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative. We want to share what we know, and that’s what the Bluebonnet Blog is about. Will Holford, Bluebonnet’s Manager of Public Affairs, is going to write most often for the blog. He’s been with the co-op since 2007, and has worked in communications for more than 14 years. Will enjoys learning about energy – and writing about it. He and other Bluebonnet employees (and occasional guest contributors) will get the conversation going -- about everything from where your power is generated to where it’s used, advances in technology, changes that will affect you, and interesting peeks behind the scenes at the co-op. We welcome your comments, questions and ideas. Email Will at will.holford@bluebonnet.coop.
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