HAI first responders aid Haiti relief efforts

 - February 15, 2010, 5:26 AM

The Helicopter Association International’s first responder program, designed to take full advantage of the benefits and capabilities of helicopters and other aircraft to assist rescue efforts during times of emergency or crisis, received numerous hits following the earthquake in Haiti last month.

When an operator participates in the first responder program, it is signaling its availability to help during emergency rescue and relief efforts on short notice. There is no fee to join or participate and no obligation to respond to any particular requests for help.

To ensure that needs can be matched with  resources, operators must provide up-to-date details. These include type of aircraft and its current location, operational capabilities (e.g., IFR, night vision, EMS, external hook) and a 24-hour contact. Volunteers have the opportunity to provide and update this information through the HAI Web site (www.rotor.com/fr). However, the association makes no guarantee that program participants will be reimbursed for their assistance.

As demonstrated in the Haiti earthquake aftermath, getting assistance to stricken areas often means the difference between life and death. A quick, coordinated response to disaster or devastation requires information to be available to authorities who can contact first responders and ask for help.

The information provided to HAI is secure. Only authorized parties, such as designated government agencies, will be able to search the database. Even the operators who participate in the first responder program cannot search or view others’ records.

HAI encourages first responder program participants to consider the seriousness of this effort and its potential impact for benefiting emergency victims. Participants may opt in or out of the first responder program at any time. The importance of keeping aircraft information current cannot be overemphasized, HAI said.