— An easy checklist for EMS helicopter pilots, firefighters and landing zone coordinators.
EMS Helicopter pilots love…
the path of least resistance.
And I admit it.
I love it too.
Why make things hard, when easy is so much… easier.
That’s what this article is about.
An easy checklist for EMS helicopter pilots and helicopter landing zone coordinators to follow. I used this checklist for the last 10 years I flew civilian EMS. It’s simple, it works and it’s easy to remember.
I hope it helps you.
Here is the S.W.O.R.D. Checklist for EMS Helicopter Landing Zones:
S - Size, Surface, Slope.
Size matters when it comes to landing zones, and in all cases, bigger is better.
Surface - what type? Grass, asphalt, loose gravel, snow, pasture, corn field, etc
Slope - how much? 2 - 3 degrees, 3 - 5 degrees, 5 - 10 degrees, and in what direction? East to West, North to south, etc
W - Winds
Always report direction winds are "coming from" or "out of" and estimated speed.
Example: Winds are out of the North at 10 knots or Winds are 360 degrees at 10 knots.
O - Obstacles
Report all obstacles inside the landing area cones or flares as well as any obstacles within two miles of the landing zone.
Example: trees, wires, cell phone towers, soccer nets, goal posts, fences, back stops, etc.
R - Route
Best route into and out of the landing zone for the helicopter.
Example: "Best approach is from the North to the South," or "best approach is from the Southeast."
D - Double Check
Double check everything, especially the stuff on the checklist. Did I find and brief all the obstacles? Do I have a good exit plan from the landing zone? Do I know the winds? Did I brief my team?
EMS and air medical is an unforgiving business. Second chances are rare. So any tool you find useful is a keeper.
My advice is to keep it simple. Simple works. Take an extra minute and make sure everything is done right the first time.
Here is the audio version of this blog post: