Flight For Life expands to 24-hour availability

Summit County service moves to full time

— The Flight For Life air ambulance service based in Frisco is going to a full-time operation, offering emergency flights and other services 24 hours a day across the region, including Steamboat Springs.

Along with patient transportation, the service, based out of St. Anthony Summit Medical Center, also is offering training and search and emergency assistance services.

The service was available from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. before the change.

Routt County Search and Rescue spokesman Darrel Levingston said the Summit County Flight For Life service also will be useful for search and avalanche operations. For most operations, Search and Rescue volunteers will continue to rely on Steamboat-based Zephyr Helicopter Company, but Zephyr helicopters are not equipped for night searches, Levingston said.

Search and Rescue has used military helicopters in the past because they are equipped for night searches, but they often are not equipped for medical care and do not have any medical personnel staffing them.

The Flight For Life helicopters use “registered nurses, paramedics, emergency medical technicians and respiratory therapists who are hospital based and bring superior skill and expertise to the critically injured or ill patient in any life-threatening situation,” according to a news release from the group.

Levingston said the Flight For Life service told Search and Rescue about a “Lift Ticket” program to ferry searchers to the site of a remote avalanche.

He said that without the flight, it would likely take first responders about an hour to reach a remote avalanche site, but with the Flight For Life helicopters dropping responders at the site, the response time could be whittled to 35 minutes, including the time it would take for the helicopter to reach Steamboat to pick up the searchers.

“In an avalanche, that could make the difference between life and death,” he said.

The Flight For Life crews also will take patients to any hospital, even though they are based at St. Anthony’s.

Yampa Valley Medical Cen­ter spokeswoman Christine Mc­­Kelvie said the hospital uses an average of 12 flights per month from several different services, depending on the destination and availability.

Flight For Life also has aircraft bases in Denver, Pueblo and Colorado Springs. Like other air ambulance services, it charges patients for the services it provides.

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