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Hazardous Chemicals and Gases and Radioactive Materials

Accidents involving hazardous materials require special handling by fire/rescue units on the ground. Equally important are the preparations and considerations for helicopter operations in these areas.

Hazardous materials of concern are those that are toxic, poisonous, flammable, explosive, irritating or radioactive in nature. Helicopter ambulance crews normally do not carry protective suits or breathing apparatuses to protect them from hazardous materials. Hazardous chemicals and gases may be fatal to the unprotected person if inhaled or absorbed through the skin.

The helicopter ambulance crew must be told of hazardous materials on the scene in order to avoid the contamination of the crew. Patients/victims contaminated by hazardous materials may require special precautions in packaging before loading on the aircraft for the medical crew’s protection.

Upon initial radio contact, the helicopter crew must be made aware of any hazardous gases in the area. Never assume that the crew already has been informed. If the aircraft were to fly through the hazardous gases, the crew could be poisoned and/or the engines could develop mechanical problems.

Poisonous or irritating gases may cling to a victim’s clothing and go unnoticed until the patient is loaded and the doors of the helicopter are closed. To avoid possible compromise of the crew, all of these patients must be decontaminated prior to loading.