Intermountain Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center

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Life Flight and Search & Rescue Teams Urge Utahns and Tourists to Exercise Caution as Summer Trauma Season Kicks Off


SALT LAKE CITY – Last summer, Tim Myers and a friend were climbing on a mountain near Willard Peak in Box Elder County when some rocks dislodged from the cliff face, injuring Myers and stranding both of them on the mountain.

Intermountain Healthcare’s Life Flight air ambulance and rescue service, along with Box Elder County and Weber County sheriff’s offices, brought the two climbers off the mountain. 

Scenarios like this are often featured in the news throughout the summer, and a new study from Life Flight shows that 71 percent of hoist rescue operations performed for challenging rescues occur in the summer months – May through September. 

“We looked at the last 10 years of Life Flight hoist operations to find out the demographics of the people we were rescuing and the reason they needed the hoist rescue,” said Judi Carpenter, RN, Life Flight nurse. “By identifying these trends, we can better communicate the precautionary measures people should take when enjoying the beautiful backcountry Utah has to offer.” 

The study found: 
• 51 percent of the Life Flight hoist rescues were on the weekends. 
• 38 percent of people had fall injuries, and 21 percent were stranded. 
• 68 percent of those rescued were taken to a hospital for further evaluation.

Memorial Day is synonymous with the start of Utah’s outdoor adventures, so teams from Life Flight, Intermountain Medical Center’s Trauma Program and Salt Lake County Search & Rescue are joining together to encourage Utahns and tourists to be prepared when recreating in Utah’s wilderness and backcountry. 

Some important safety tips for those planning to enjoy the outdoors this summer include: 
• Travel with a companion – never hike, boat, fish, etc. alone 
• Do not go beyond your physical abilities 
• Wear appropriate clothing for the season and activity 
• Have supplies that stretch one day beyond what you have planned 
• Use appropriate safety devices for your activity – life jackets, climbing ropes, hiking shoes, etc. 
• Always be prepared for sudden changes in the weather 
• Learn basic first-aid 

Life Flight is the first and only civilian air ambulance in the nation equipped and licensed to perform hoist rescues, in which a paramedic is lowered to an injured or stranded person on a specially-designed hoist attached to the helicopter. 

The Life Flight hoist team is comprised of eleven pilots, twelve nurses operating the hoist and directing the pilot, and twelve hoist rescuer paramedics who are lowered to and package the patient for extraction. 

Life Flight operates two Agusta 109 K2 twin-engine helicopters equipped for hoist operations and well suited for high-altitude performance. The maximum weight capacity of the Breeze-Eastern hoist mechanism is 450 pounds with 150 feet of useable cable. 

Researchers hope the information from their study will help other helicopter emergency medical services contemplating hoist operations. 

Since its launch in 1978, Life Flight has transported more than 62,000 critically-ill or injured patients more than 9.6 million miles. Currently, Life Flight averages 10-15 patient transports a day. 

 “Every summer we see numerous recreationists in our emergency room with injuries that could have been prevented,” said Jody Carter, nurse practitioner with Intermountain Medical Center’s Trauma Program. “We want everyone to have a fun summer, and taking a few precautionary measures can help ensure that fun isn’t cut short.”

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