Thursday, December 28, 2017

Kalispell Regional Medical Center's A.L.E.R.T program looks to raise money for new helicopter



KALISPELL, Mont. - Kalispell Regional Medical Center's A.L.E.R.T air ambulance program recently upgraded to a new helicopter thanks to a generous loan, but now the program needs money to pay the loan back.

After 17 years and 6,500 hours logged, the legacy helicopter needed a rest.

"Aircraft are like cars you know you could own a car forever, but if its responsible for saving your life you kind of like to have a new modern vehicle," said ALERT’s advisory  board chairman Bob Sandman.

The newer model of helicopter Bell 407 comes equipped with an avionics system and autopilot, which improves the aircrafts safety and speed. Flight paramedic Dan Magone knows how important these assets are to the program.

"They need to get to the hospital quick and this is a very fast ambulance," said Magone.

Helicopters do not come cheap. The new one cost $4 million. Sandman told NBC Montana a friend of A.L.E.R.T took out a loan to buy the aircraft, since a new one was needed before they could raise the money.

Lakeside Quick Response Unit’s Brian Reed has worked with the A.L.E.R.T team and knows how important its services are.

"We had a chest pain call down in Rollins and we knew getting the patient out would have been very difficult. We were able to call A.L.E.R.T and they were able to pinpoint right where we were at," said Reed.

Since 1975 when A.L.E.R.T started, the helicopter has saved about 1,500 lives. The helicopter is in the air about 500 times a year.




"This helicopter is going to get you to the hospital and most likely save your life if you are seriously injured," Sandman told NBC Montana.

Rather than selling the old helicopter to help with costs, it will be a backup. The contracted helicopters A.L.E.R.T use to use as a backup are unqualified for emergency services now due to new FAA requirements.

The old helicopter will help with cost in other ways because now A.L.E.R.T won't have to pay for the contracted helicopter services if their aircraft is down.

"That other aircraft too also provides us the ability to do some additional training with our pilots and not have this aircraft down while we are doing that," said Sandman.

They still have a lot to pay on the new helicopter, but Sandman feels the community has always supported the program.

The new aircraft will help them better serve Northwest Montana. 

Story and video ➤ http://www.nbcmontana.com

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