Hello Central Southwest Members!
I participated in the Iowa Aviation Conference in Des Moines this week (glad to see and meet some of you there!) and, while there, I learned about the Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) tool from the Chief Pilot at Air Methods.
I don’t know about you, but I had never heard of it… and found it to be pretty interesting so I thought I’d share with you. The Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) tool is prepared by the Aviation Digital Data Service (ADDS) within the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) with FAA funding and its website is: http://weather.aero/tools/desktopapps/hemstool.
From that website, you can read that the HEMS tool was “specially designed to meet the needs of low-altitude VFR emergency first responders. The HEMS Tool can overlay multiple fields of interest: ceiling, visibility, flight category, winds, relative humidity, temperature, radar (base and composite reflectivity), AIRMETs and SIGMETs, METARs, TAFs, and PIREPs. All 3D data are interpolated to AGL altitudes and can be sliced horizontally on 500 ft intervals up to 5,000 ft. All data can be animated in time. The tool has high-resolution basemaps, including streets, hospitals, and heliports for the entire United States. More detail is revealed as you zoom in.” Air Methods uses the information on this website/tool to make their “no go” mission decisions. The 3:26 min demo video on the website shows how the tool works. Note you will need JAVA to launch the tool.
Many times we spend a lot of time below 5,000 feet (especially flying VFR in busy airspace areas where we need to stay below airspace) so this tool can be helpful even for us GA pilots.
We were also told “MEDEVAC” aircraft (those aircraft with a patient on board or when time is critical… think about it as an ambulance with lights and sirens on) use frequency 123.05 as the HEMS frequency for updates. If you fly in an area where there are a lot of MEDEVAC helicopter type operations, it was recommended during the conference that pilots listen in to 123.025 (Helo Air to Air) and 123.05 (Helo Air to Ground) when appropriate through their standby radio (this information was corrected based on member comments to this post). It was explained to us that most EMS helicopters are usually monitoring and talking on at least three radios: 1) the airport’s CTAF or ATC, 2) the HEMS frequency, and 3) the company’s radio to communicate with the medical facilities.
Hope you find this useful.