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

Tommy Chong says cannabis legalization makes him proud to be a Canadian

Legendary marijuana advocate and comedian celebrates cultural milestone at Kelowna event

How do we solve the homelessness issue in Campbell River?

Candidates give their thoughts on the city’s role in reducing homelessness

Don’t let your guard down, fire chief says after two house fires in Willow Point

Two house fires in Willow Point have Campbell River’s fire chief reminding… Continue reading

Veteran hospice doctor credits Campbell River community for its thriving program

Dr. Deb Braithwaite spent 30 years working with Victoria Hospice Society

Singer k.d. lang receives Alberta’s highest honour

Celebrated singer-songwriter k.d. lang received the Alberta Order of Excellence in Edmonton

B.C. tickets win big in Lotto Max draw

Jackpot carried over; B.C. tickets share Max Millions prizes

‘Mom, I’m in trouble:’ Canadian faces 10 years for alleged graffiti

Brittney Schneider, another tourist caught spraying message on walls of Tha Pae Gate in Thailand

Feds consulting on national anti-racism strategy behind closed doors

Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez says people still face systemic racism in some communities

Enbridge aims for mid-November to finish B.C. pipeline repair after blast

A natural gas pipeline that ruptured and burned near Prince George caused an explosion and fireball

How to get government cheques if Canada Post staff go on strike

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers said members could go on rotating strikes as early as Monday

Anti-SOGI school trustee files defamation lawsuit against BCTF president

Barry Neufeld says Glen Hansman’s words caused him “indignity,” “personal harassment,” and “anxiety”

Ocean ‘blob’ returns to B.C.’s North Coast

A 2,000 kilometre patch of warm ocean water could signal a warm winter in Prince Rupert

Most Read