SUMMITVILLE — “Go!” 3 1/2-year-old Audra King said, nearly jumping out of her grandmother Barbara Huse’s arms as she pointed at the LifeLine emergency helicopter.

“She calls it a go,” Huse, a 66-year-old Monroe County resident, said with a smile.

Go it does, Audra. LifeLine helicopters have transported more than 27,000 people from emergency situations to hospitals in Indiana since the company’s inception in 1979.

“It’s pretty nice,” Summitville Volunteer Fire Department firefighter Ron DeLong, 41, said. “They can get to the accident scene in minutes.”

Sunday, LifeLine personnel landed in Summitville to stage a training session for emergency personnel, going over how to call for a helicopter, set up a landing zone and load patients.

“When we are dispatched to a serious call or an accident, we can have a LifeLine on standby or take to the air before we’re on the scene,” Summitville Assistant Fire Chief Linda Ferris said.

Those services are especially important to a rural department like the one in Summitville, which covers a large stretch of territory from Indiana 37 to the Delaware County line, including both Boone and Van Buren townships. The volunteer department has used LifeLine since the early 1990s, does the training about once a year and has to call for helicopter assistance two or three times a year.

Though LifeLine personnel said they can’t speak for other companies, they are one of a handful of emergency service helicopter companies that serve central Indiana.

Responders from Duck Creek, Union Chesterfield and Madison County Emergency Management Agency also attended.

Though skilled responders make it look easy, bringing a helicopter to the right place at the right time is no easy task.

n Making the call

Local emergency responders’ first responsibility is getting the helicopter there.

“If you roll up to an accident and think, ‘Holy Moses!’ follow your gut instinct (and order as many helicopters as you need),” flight nurse Lisa Stringer told the assembled firefighters and responders. “In a lot of cases you can tell them to turn around if you don’t need them.”

The company owns four helicopters, plus one backup.

Helicopters can cover what an automobile can in about a quarter of the time, taking weather into account. They typically fly about 1,500 feet up, at about 150 mph.

That means about 10 minutes to Summitville from the company’s base in Kokomo, or about 25 from Indianapolis.

n Touching down

The next step is making a landing.

The best place for the pilot to land is on a parking lot, street or other paved surface. That’s because the propeller creates a down draft at speeds up to 100 mph.

That means just about anything that isn’t nailed down, from dust on a farm field to snow on the ground to medical equipment, could get caught in the down draft.

Another important factor is keeping people away from the landing site, which has to be 100 feet square.

“Some people aren’t thinking straight, and we could hurt them if you don’t secure the scene,” pilot J.T. Kelley said.

n Loading up and shipping out

The helicopters can hold some 3,500 pounds, but the cots the company uses can hoist up to a 400-pound person. Two patients can go up at a time, but company policy is to leave all family members at the scene of an accident, to cut down on distractions for the pilot.

A “hot load” is when a patient is put into the plane when the blades are still moving.

“We prefer (firefighters) come in full (protective) gear, since it really does get hot back there,” paramedic Bill Summerfield said.

A “cold load” is done with the engine off.

The air ambulance usually flies to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, but can fly anywhere, depending on patient condition, weather, and preference.

“We all have the same goal,” Kelley said. “To save lives.”

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