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HALO participates in collaborative wind farm rescue exercise in southern Alberta

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HALO Air Ambulance is just one agency ready for life-saving action, after participating in an emergency training exercise at a southern Alberta wind farm. As Emily Olsen reports, officials say practising this type of collaborative response is crucial – Aug 26, 2020

Dangling more than 100 feet in the air from a wind turbine may not be your idea of a good time, but in a crisis situation, wind farm workers may find themselves doing just that.

On Wednesday morning, southern Alberta emergency crews and HALO Air Ambulance co-ordinated to rescue someone from the top of a turbine just south of Bow Island in a practice exercise.

“A real-world scenario. At the turbine, on the wind farm, pulling together all of the EMS personnel, HALO, fire,” Lyle Poitras, Capital Power site manager for Whitla Wind Farmy, said.

Read more: Third phase to make Capital Power’s Whitla Wind project Alberta’s largest

Capital Power and Vestas, the wind turbine supplier and maintenance service provider, were key organizers of the drill, hoping to prepare employees and community agents together.

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“They invested in making sure this happened and gave us an opportunity to evaluate our response and our response along with other emergency services,” Paul Carolan with HALO Air Ambulance said.

Vestas officials said this is the first-ever exercise of its kind and the experience is crucial.

“It really gets everybody familiar with the site,” explained Sam Toohey with Vestas. “It’s a new site so not everyone is overly familiar with the roads and the overall area of the wind farm.”

Medical supplies were loaded onto a winch system and pulled up to the top before the patient was carefully lowered 105 feet to the ground.

In the meantime, other responders awaited HALO’s arrival.

Read more: ‘HALO is on life-support’: Medicine Hat-based air ambulance program sounds alarm to province

“The ability to work with first responders on the ground and practise these things when it can be slower and we can talk about it and be very deliberate makes those actual responses so much more seamless,” Carolan said.

“We made a call to 911 dispatch at about 10:01 and the victim was on the ground at about 10:54,” Toohey said. “So we had about a 54 minute response time.”

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Officials said, all things considered, 54 minutes is a good response time for a complex retrieval process like this one.

“It’s pretty rare that you would have a response of this nature but that’s why we do these drills,” said Toohey.

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