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By Greg Sanderson - After the cowardly attack on the United States on September 11, 2001, law enforcements roles have changed dramatically. With the advent of Homeland Security grants and other special requirements, more law enforcement agencies are nowpick off tasking their aircrews to perform SAR duties as well.

In addition to patrol, eradication, and special operation duties, departments are now seeking training on hoist, short haul, and firefighting operations. Each one of these disciplines in itself require an extras ordinary amount of training and re-currency to produce safe and effective outcomes during these low frequency, high risk operations.


In most public agencies you will find an assortment of prior military pilots and aircrew members with some hoist and or maybe fast rope experience. In reality if you are going to get involved in this type of program you will need specialized training from a reputable experienced organization. In the long run this will increase operational effectiveness and surely reduce liability issues.

When looking for training from outside your organization there are certain basics one should look for. In the United States there are literally only three or four companies that provide this service. First and foremost look at their staff. Have the company provide biographies for its instructors. You will find wide disparities in actual hands on experience as SAR operators. The better companies will employ staff that in their “real jobs” performs these types of rescues on a daily basis, if not multiple times per shift.

firefighting picWhat type of platform is being used should weigh in on your decision. Rather it be hoisting, short haul, rescue swimmer deployment, firefighting, or fast rope each helicopter has its own operating characteristics. I can assure you from past experience, a Bell 412 and AW-139 are two completely different aircraft when used in this rescue role. Inquire into what types aircraft the trainers have experience on.

If the opportunity arises send crewmembers to the Goodrich Hoist users conference held annually at HAI. You will find a room full of operators that are the best in the world at what they do. Network with them; ask questions on their training experiences.

There are many more variables involved in establishing a standalone helicopter rescue unit. Staffing, equipment, budgets, and a defined mission objective all play into deciding how to acquire the appropriate training. Contact the training companies and pick who your organization thinks will provide the best, cost effective service.

About the author: Greg Sanderson is a 24 year veteran firefighter/flight paramedic with the Los Angeles Fire Department. He also is the CEO of Air Rescue Concepts, a helicopter based rescue and fire suppression training company. He can be reached at greg@airrescueconcepts.com



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