Bristow Search and Rescue team safely supports COVID-19 efforts

Bristow SAR Team members at the Galliano base in Louisiana. Bristow use SAR equipped AW139 and S-92s. Bristow also uses an S-76 for medical transport.

As the world continues to navigate and monitor the COVID-19 pandemic, Bristow's search and rescue (SAR) base in Galliano is on the front lines every day safely transporting COVID-19 patients.

As of July 31, 2020, Galliano SAR crews carried out more than 300 medevacs this year, which exceeds last year's total volume. The COVID-19 pandemic significantly increased the team's call volume beginning in February, continuing through today. There were two notable spikes, both lasting about four weeks each. The first spike was observed at the beginning of March, followed by a slowly evolving downward trend. In July, the second sharp spike hit and lasted for another four-week duration. Fortunately, the team was well prepared for both spikes in activity.

"This is what we train for," said Regional SAR Manager, US & Caribbean David Jacob. "We are well versed in atypical medical situations, which includes transporting infectious disease patients. Once we understood the basic etiology and transmission pathway of COVID-19, we were able to build upon our existing infectious disease transport protocols and implemented additional measures to ensure the essential safety of our flight crews and patients."

For these unique cases, the flight crews wear personal protective equipment (PPE) to safeguard themselves from potential exposure to the disease. Also, the maintenance team created and installed engineering controls in the aircraft, such as the cockpit barriers to protect pilots from potential infection. The team also has FDA-approved isolation stretchers on hand to provide disease containment for potentially infectious patients who are non-ambulatory, unconscious or requiring invasive procedures, such as mechanical ventilation or other critical care medical procedures. 

"Safety is number one in what we do," said Jacob. "We ensure that our employees have everything they could possibly need to perform their critical roles safely."

  Bristow has FDA-approved isolation stretchers on hand to provide disease containment.
Bristow has FDA-approved isolation stretchers on hand to provide disease containment.

Decontamination and disinfection processes are essential aspects of a safe and comprehensive medical transport program. Hoist Operator Martin Kemp created an innovative solution by reconfiguring an SCBA unit with a flexible hose and micro misting device to dispense the disinfectant solution. This equipment has been a great compliment to the team's enhanced cleaning initiatives and has substantially decreased the overall post-flight turnaround time.

"We have transported hundreds of COVID-19 related cases and none to date have resulted in a crewmember infection or injury," said Jacob. "I believe that this is a testament to our thorough and comprehensive tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs)."

Supporting the efforts through the increased operations is a team effort from the SAR maintenance, oil and gas maintenance and supply chain teams.

"Our maintenance and supply chain teams have seamlessly supported our operations throughout the pandemic," said Director - Maintenance Eddie Driskell. "This has been a demanding situation in unprecedented times, yet they haven't missed a beat. Every day, they ensure our aircraft are ready and flying safely to support the high needs of our clients. I commend the entire team for their hard work and professionalism."

"Our SAR program's employees' resolute dedication and valorous efforts throughout this persistent pandemic is nothing short of extraordinary," said Jacob.

Bristow’s Search and Rescue team in Galliano, Louisiana, has carried out more than 300 medevacs this year, which exceeds last year's total volume.