This time of year the nights are drawing in, but we’re delighted to say that the Devon Air Ambulance service won’t be! Thanks to the help of communities and organisations across Devon, we are now able to start flying into the hours of darkness. So, why is night flying important and how has it been achieved?
Why Night Flying?
Devon Air Ambulance has been operating for over 20 years, helping people in need of urgent medical support who often can’t be reached quickly enough by road. Our air ambulances can reach people across the whole of Devon in just minutes, even in usually hard-to-reach places.
Up until now, our service has only operated during the day… but people don’t simply stop being unwell when it gets dark. Previously, these people couldn’t be reached by air, instead relying on emergency services on the ground- which isn’t always quick enough. But now we’re on a mission to make night time flight time!
How Have We Done It?
So, how have we done it? Well, it hasn’t just been down to Devon Air Ambulance volunteers!
We’ve been working with communities and organisations across Devon to develop a network of community landing sites that can be used during the hours of darkness. Many sites across Devon were already suitable for this purpose, and people have been pleased to contribute to such a positive cause in the community.
These sites enable our helicopters to land quickly and safely, with patients then transferred from a land ambulance to an air ambulance. One of the most important components of these sites is the floodlighting: as well as making landing and take-off easier and safer, this lighting also aids paramedics as they load a patient into the aircraft. Each lighting system can also be operated remotely by the dispatch team via SMS, so nobody needs to be on-hand when the site is used.
A huge thank you to everyone who has already provided a site or otherwise helped to support the campaign- we couldn’t have achieved this without the hard work of people in the community!
Although our night time service can now operate in many areas across Devon, more community landing sites are still needed to extend our reach during the hours of darkness. Some of the requirements for a landing site are as follows:
- A flat, open area of at least 50 x 50 metres
- Grass, tarmac or concrete surfaces are suitable
- Pedestrian access onto the site and vehicle access nearby
- A nearby power source for lighting is useful but not essential
- Tall trees or power lines could be a hazard, but may not be a problem if they are on the periphery of the site
Each potential site undergoes a survey by Devon Air Ambulance, to assess the suitability of the site and document any potential hazards. If the site gets the all clear after the survey, then it can be used as another location to reach people in need.
If you think you might be able to help, please get in touch with our Community Helipads Development Officer Toby Russell, either by email or by calling 01392 466666. Let’s make night time flight time!