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ECMC Trains for Helicopter Mishap

By Eileen Buckley

Buffalo, NY – An emergency response exercise involving a simulated helicopter crash took place on the roof top of the Erie County Medical Center Thursday.

On average, an emergency helicopter lands at the ECMC heliport at least once a day. Thursday's drill was based on a crash that occurred a couple of a months ago in Cleveland. A helicopter taking off from a hospital crashed after a gust of wind forced it down.

As the drill began, ECMC implemented its disaster plan with all departments responding.

"he whole hospital right now is responding to this drill. Every department has specific duties that they have to perform," said Jerry Olszewski, the assistant administrator at ECMC. In the event of a helicopter crash at the hospital, the ECMC security staff would be first to respond.

"The job of our security is to get the initial home line deployed start fighting the fire then wait for buffalo fire to get here," explained Christopher Zak, director of pre-hospital care at ECMC. "They come in with reenforcements, take care of the actual fire, and rescue anyone in the aircraft."

The hospital security staff manned a large, powerful fire hose, until Buffalo firefighters arrived. They sprayed foam to put out a blaze sparked by the simulated crash. Firefighters arrived just a few minutes after the drill began. Chief pilot of Mercy Flight, Stan Snopkowski, showed fire crews how to shut down the helicopter's engine, where fuel tanks are located and a lesson on how to handle the crash victims.

"The biggest thing, if there are fatalities, leave them were they are because the FAA or NSTB will come in and investigate," Snopkowski said. "They want to see where everybody ended up."

Dietrich Jehla, director of emergency services at ECMC, says during the drill, it is key to make sure everyone is comfortable in dealing with the crash.

"In terms of medical response, make sure the zone is safe first," Jehla said. "So you don't have people injured as a result of responding."

Fortunately, the hospital and emergency crews say no crashes have occurred at ECMC, but they will continue to hold drills and review procedures to create the best response possible. EB WBFO News.