BC Emergency Health Services executive vice-president Linda Lupini tries on a $12,000 night vision goggles setup. (Katya Slepian/Black Press)

VIDEO: New night vision goggles on B.C. air ambulances could help save lives

$1.7-million investment will eventually outfit all four Helijet helicopters

A $1.7-million investment into night vision goggles for B.C. air ambulances could mean the difference between life or death for patients in remote parts of the province.

“Looking at the areas where we currently land at [where] we can’t land at night, we’re looking at 130, 140 more patient transfers and responses,” said BC Emergency Health Services executive vice-president Linda Lupini. Nearly 2,000 patient transfers each year are done by air ambulance helicopters. Ten per cent of those are emergency responses, she noted.”

“Eventually, we’ll be able to land in places we never could before [in day or night] and that will increase the numbers.”

Lupini made the announcement Thursday at Helijet’s hangar in Vancouver International Airport’s south terminal.

Helijet, which operates air ambulances in B.C., will share the cost.

CEO Danny Sitman said two air ambulance helicopters stationed in Richmond and one stationed in Prince Rupert are equipped with the night vision technology. A fourth helicopter will be equipped later this year.

READ MORE: Night vision for Rupert’s air ambulances

“By the beginning of June, we should have all the air crew up and running on this program,” said Sitman.

BCEHS aviation director Paul Bouchard said night vision would allow helicopters to land in places that require lateral vision, like valleys in mid-Vancouver Island, the Fraser Valley and up in Vancouver’s North Shore.

“Locations such as Pemberton, Whistler, Port Alberni… right now, flying visually at night [without the goggles], the aircraft must have lateral clearance of three miles on either side,” said Bouchard.

“When you try to go there at night, the valley is not that wide at the bottom,” Bouchard said, forcing the helicopters to fly higher. With night vision goggles, he said, the crews can fly lower and much more easily spot their targets.

READ MORE: Parksville heli-company to champion new medevac service

Being able to fly at lower altitudes will make the flight more comfortable for patients who are already dealing with pain and trouble breathing.

Paramedic Ross Hallaway said being forced to fly higher as a result of not being able to see at night is difficult with patients who are already having trouble breathing, such as premature babies. Helicopters don’t pressurize like planes do, so the air at flying altitude is all the air a patient gets.

“A 500 gram baby, their lung capacity is very small. Currently to do night flight we’d have to go up to 8,000 feet,” said Chute. With night vision goggles, the helicopter could fly at half the altitude, giving the premature babies, and other sensitive patients, more breathing room.

A lower flying altitude also helps patients with bowel obstructions, Chute said.

“You have trapped gas in there… when you go up, things expand so being able to maintain a lower cabin pressure is going to be very helpful.”

How it all works

The night vision goggles themselves use the same technology as the U.S. and Canadian military, Helijet chief pilot Mike Potter said.

The goggles “take a minute amount of light and intensify it in [the goggles], ultimately with a whole bunch of little mirrors,” Potter said.

“That image is then produced in the tube itself.”

Each night vision goggle and helmet setup costs about $12,000, Potter noted.


@katslepian

katya.slepian@bpdigital.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Spike in Jaffray bear calls cause for concern

In 2018 there were 38 calls about bears spotted in the Jaffray area, compared to one call in 2017.

Snow on the way for Elk Valley

Winter weather advisory issued for East Kootenay with up to 15cm of snow expected over the next week

Snow removal still an issue for mobility challenged in Fernie

Disability advocate sees little improvement in sidewalk clearing; City promises to review policy

Sparwood trails community growing

Sparwood Trails Alliance grows trail network, membership; hosting fatbike event February 2

Huge demand for youth funding in the Elk Valley

Emily Brydon Youth Foundation overwhelmed by 2018/19 winter applications from local youth

B.C. opioid crisis to get same world-renowned treatment approach as HIV/AIDS

A program that focuses on treatment as prevention will roll out Jan. 17

In limbo: Leftover embryos challenge clinics, couples

Some are outright abandoned by people who quit paying storage fees and other couples struggle with tough decisions

BREAKING: Jury finds man accused of killing B.C. girl, 12, guilty

Twelve-year-old Monica Jack disappeared in May 1978 while riding her bike along a highway in Merritt, B.C.

B.C. government extends coastal log export rules for six months

Premier John Horgan talks forest policy at loggers’ convention

B.C. pair accused of ‘honour-killing’ in India to be extradited within days

Malkit Kaur Sidhu and Surjit Singh Badesha are accused of conspiracy to commit murder

OPINION: Jaffray bear meeting good first step, but not enough

A large number of individuals attended the grizzly bear meeting in Jaffray… Continue reading

Netflix rejects request to remove Lac-Megantic images from ‘Bird Box’

At least two shows on Netflix’s Canadian platform briefly use actual footage of the 2013 tragedy

FOCUS: Canada’s revamped impaired driving law brews ‘potential for injustice’

There must be ‘trigger’ for cops to come knocking, Surrey MP says

Barack Obama to speak at Vancouver event

Former U.S. president will speak with board of trade in March

Most Read