Campbell River’s Technical Evacuation Advanced Aero Medical (TEAAM) base is up and running, with crews ready to respond quickly to emergencies in hard-to-reach places on Vancouver Island and the North Coast.
“What we do is different than search and rescue and different than ambulance,” said Miles Randell, president of TEAAM Aeromedical. “It’s called ‘medically directed rescue.’ We marry the level of medical care with the ability to rescue someone.
“An example I’ll give is that we can fly out, lower someone down on a long line, and if it’s a rolled over logging truck, not only can we provide advanced life support and critical medical care, but we can also provide the auto extrication,” he said. “We can cut the person out of that vehicle with the Jaws of Life. Then we can bring them up into the aircraft to fly direct to the most appropriate hospital.”
The placement in Campbell River means that TEAAM can make good use of their two-hour-and-20-minute flight time before refuelling. At a speed of about 175 km/h, that puts the range of helicopters at around 400 km in any direction. Randell said their response time is about “a tenth of the time frame that it would take an ambulance to get someone out of those situations.”
While the model is seen elsewhere in the world, Randell said there isn’t much like it in North America.
“It’s quite a bit different than anything that’s been done in Canada previously. In Switzerland they started doing this about 54 years ago. Australia and New Zealand are similar,” he said. “Where we are now (at a conference in) Austin, Texas, there’s a service that does a similar thing that includes firefighting. It’s one of only a couple in the US that does something similar. It’s very different from what’s been provided in Canada previously.”
The base launched on August 10. TEAAM held an open house at the Campbell River Airport, which was attended by supporters like the Truck Loggers Association, Interfor, Western Forest Products, as well as Vancouver Island Helicopters, 49 North and others. Those partners helped with fundraising to get the equipment TEAAM needed for the launch.
“It’s a long process, most of it was fundraising to make sure we had the equipment to launch the base. We did pretty well with human resources. What we do is so very different, interesting and exciting,” Randell said. “We’ve got some incredible folks that work with us now in the Campbell River area. It took about a year for us to get enough funding to launch the Medevac capability. We’re still fundraising to be able to add the rescue capability to it.”
While as of Aug. 18 there hasn’t been any deployments of the service, TEAAM did do one mission before the official launch.
“We had one previous deployment before we launched the base,” Randell said. “We went and picked up a patient with a respiratory condition. We looked at launching that out of Squamish, but the weather was bad.
“It was equidistant between the Squamish base and the Campbell River base. We were able to put something together at the drop of the hat with some dedicated team members who jumped into a helicopter… and made it happen.”