NC HART training

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Holly Fesperman LeeSalisbury Post
A hunter falls from a tree stand in a heavily wooded area that’s inaccessible by vehicle.
The injured man needs medical attention, but the area is miles from a main road and it would take too long to carry him out.
What can emergency workers do to reach the man?
Rescuers with NC HART (Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team) practiced that scenario and others Tuesday during a training exercise at the Rowan County Airport.
Fire, police and EMS personnel from across the state, along with members of the Army National Guard, make up NC HART, one of only three rescue teams of its kind in the country.
According to Tim Rogers with the Charlotte Fire Department, the team is “trained for about any kind of disaster where we need to put teams in and get citizens out.”
Last March, on St. Patrick’s Day, the team worked to rescue five fallen climbers in Burke County.
Lt. Col. Paul Barbee recalled that it was very cold that night and said the group probably would have died without the team’s help.
NC HART also helped with Hurricane Katrina relief efforts and aided in the search for Michael Auberry, the boy scout lost in the mountains last March.
“It’s a 24-7, 365 resource,” Rogers said.
The three scenarios the group practiced Tuesday involved searching for a victim over a huge area and using a helicopter to lift the victim out of the area.
Greg Atchley, N.C. Emergency Management area coordinator, explained that the person’s injuries determine what method rescuers use to lift them out of the area.
If the person doesn’t have any spinal injuries, NC HART could use a harness that fits around the person’s body and clips onto a cable that comes down out of the helicopter.
If the victim has some type of spinal injury and needs to be stabilized, rescuers will put the person on a backboard and then into a long bag. The cable clips onto the bag and lifts the person into the helicopter.
In either situation, a rescue worker rides with the victim to keep the person calm.
Capt. Christopher Joyner, deputy state public affairs officer with the National Guard, served as the victim in one of the scenarios earlier in the day.
While he’s been in combat before and served a year in Iraq, Joyner said being lifted by the helicopter was still scary.
“These guys really know how to take care of a patient,” he said.
In another scenario, kayakers went out on a swollen creek and became stranded on a debris field.
The victim in that situation was more badly injured than the fallen hunter, so rescuers used the backboard and bag to prepare the victim for the helicopter.
As the blackhawk helicopter approached, rescuers put on goggles to protect themselves from its hurricane force winds.Joyner explained that the team would practice a short haul in this scenario.
Team members secured the injured man, then the helicopter flew a short distance to an open field and dropped the man off. The helicopter came back and picked up a second man and dropped him off also.
The short haul works best when there are multiple victims, Joyner said.
“This is as realistic as it comes,” he said. “The idea is to train, train, train. … If you wait until the time you have to do it for real, you won’t be prepared.”
Contact Holly Lee at 704-797-7683 or