BP Medevac sites and Dutch Creek protocols

U.S. Forest Service/Bureau of Land Management
Fire and Aviation Management
Briefing Paper
Date: April 1, 2015
Topic: Incident Medevac sites, unimproved landing sites, and the Dutch Creek Protocols
Background: Memorandum NWCG #025-2010 was issued on May 25, 2010 that outlines three new Incident Management
Team (IMT) Daily Operation Protocols/Procedures that reflect recommendations provided by the Dutch Creek Serious Accident
Task Team. IMTs have made great strides in meeting the intent of this direction since it was issued by actions that include
identifying the location of potential helicopter medevac sites on Incident Action Plans and maps. Chapter 8 of the Interagency
Helicopter Operations Guide only addresses helibases, helispots, and unimproved landing sites. As written policy, it does not
address the term “medevac site.” The purpose of this briefing is to clarify the position of State-Regional Aviation Managers
with a recommendation on how to interpret and apply the Dutch Creek Protocols.
Key Points:
 IMTs are commended for diligently modifying the planning process, considering all available options, and taking the
necessary steps to ensure injured firefighters can be evacuated. Lives have been saved as a result of better planning.
 For the sake of this discussion, the term “Medevac site” refers to a place where injured personnel may be carried or
relocated to be transported to a definitive medical care facility by ground transportation or loaded internally in a
helicopter. The term “extraction” refers to removing injured personnel using a hoist, short-haul, or other external
method in a location where a safe helicopter landing is not possible to load a patient internally. Extraction methods and
protocols are not addressed in this paper.
 In the ICS 206 Block 8 Instructions (Attachment C of the Dutch Creek Protocols), IMTs are directed to include GPS
coordinates for key locations such as spike camps, drop points, helispots, etc. Medevac sites have been identified on
IAPs which may or may not be improved to meet the IHOG standards of a “helispot.”
 IHOG pg. 8-1 states that, “an unimproved landing site becomes a helispot when it is used on a recurring basis for the
purpose of transporting personnel and/or cargo to or from the site. It should then be managed, improved to the extent
necessary, and supplied with the appropriate equipment.” Unless definitively designated and utilized as an incident
helibase or helispot, a “medevac site” is normally considered a contingency option or potential emergency landing site
that is not necessarily improved or used for other operational incident helicopter landings. The IHOG language
pertaining to “unimproved landing sites” should therefore be applied or equated to potential IAP medevac sites.
 IHOG Chapter 8, Sec. III A. states the following with regard to unimproved landing sites:
o The Pilot is responsible for making the decision to use unimproved landing sites. The Government
representative on board may make a recommendation, but must defer to the Pilot’s judgment.
o When logistical and environmental concerns allow, the site should be improved to meet helispot standards.
 An unimproved landing site designated as a medevac site may not be usable or acceptable for certain aircraft or pilots,
or in certain environmental conditions such as a specific wind speed or direction, temperature/density altitude, and
visibility at certain times of day, etc.
Recommended Best Practices:
 Avoid identifying medevac sites that cannot be minimally improved to meet IHOG helispot standards and avoid
designating a medevac site where the only method for removing injured personnel is by extraction, as defined above.
 Improve potential unimproved medevac sites when possible with concurrence by agency Resource Advisors to
minimize the impact to the resource. Even if not equipped with a crash rescue kit, fire extinguisher, or personnel, at
least a flat landing deck can be marked out and potential hazard trees and brush removed to reduce the risk.
 Do not plan tactics or operations that depend on a medevac site or any other landing site (improved or unimproved)
being accessible or available for a helicopter landing and takeoff.
 Provide opportunities for the pilot and manager of a designated incident medevac ship to perform reconnaissance of all
pre-identified medevac site to assess their suitability and any needed improvements. Be aware of pilot and manager
swaps and allow the same opportunity when a new or relief pilot is assigned to the medevac ship on any given day.
Contact: Aaron Schoolcraft, Assistant Fire Director, Aviation, AK Forest Service and PNW Bureau of Land Management and
Forest Service, 503-808-2359; Kurt Kleiner, OR/WA BLM State Aviation Manager, 503-808-6593