EL PASO, Texas – U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air Marine Operations, El Paso Air Branch, conducted helicopter casualty evacuation training with firefighters and sheriff’s deputies from El Paso County Search and Rescue at the West Valley Fire Department on Tuesday.
“The purpose of training was to give El Paso County fire fighters and sheriff’s deputies on the El Paso SAR team practical experience in rigging up a simulated casualty in a litter along with a SAR team member to be air lifted from a casualty site to a safe landing zone. From the landing zone the victim can then be moved to emergency care.” said Fabian Cardiel, Air Enforcement Agent and Operations Officer with AMO El Paso Air Branch. “CBP AMO helicopters and crews often work with local SAR teams to conduct emergency casualty evacuations in West Texas and New Mexico in rugged terrain. It is important for us to train together so we can operate effectively when a life-saving rescue is needed.”
An AMO UH-60 helicopter rigged with proper lifting rope and carabiners was used to airlift EL Paso SAR team members and simulated casualty dummy into the air and land them to a landing zone a short distance away.
One of the key parts of the training conducted by AMO was how to properly connect the primary and secondary lift points on both the casualty and the SAR team member. SAR Team members also learned proper hand and arm signals to communicate with the AMO pilots when they are ready to be lifted into the air.
“This training is important because it improves outcomes for injured patients by minimizing the time it takes to move them to emergency care. It reduces the time in moving the patient and reduces potential injuries to personnel who would otherwise have to hike the patient out of rugged terrain,” said Kris Menendez, Fire Chief at Horizon Fire Department, ESD-1.
El Paso County has an abundance of rugged terrain due to the desert and mountains of West Texas. Earlier this year AMO El Paso Air Branch assisted El Paso Fire Department in the air evacuation and rescue of injured hiker near the rim of McKelligon Canyon in the Franklin Mountains State Park.
Commenting on the training and how El Paso SAR has worked with AMO in the past, Sgt. Rick Perales of El Paso Country Sheriff’s Department said, “Many of our rescues are helicopter dependent and we work quite well together with AMO. This excellent relationship has been built over the last 10 years and we work well together in all areas including rescues and law enforcement operations.”
This teamwork is particularly important as El Paso County does not have any helicopter aviation assets.
“Without a doubt the cooperation between AMO and El Paso County benefits the entire community,” said Menendez.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection is the unified border agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged with the comprehensive management, control, and protection of our nation’s borders, combining customs, immigration, border security, and agricultural protection at and between official ports of entry.