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The Flight For Life Colorado Communication Center handles the dispatching and communications needs for all of the programs services. Located at St. Anthony Hospital in Lakewood, the center is a full time dispatching, flight following, and coordination center.
When a request for transport is received, the communications specialist determines which of Flight For Life Colorado's vehicles is appropriate for the transport and activates the crew. For a scene flight, the specialist takes as much information as possible regarding the nature of the call, the location, local weather, and any details on patient condition. All of this is passed along to the crew. The crews may elect to alter the plan, choosing another vehicle if needed, for the sake of the transport. Using all the information gathered, Communication Specialists can determine GPS coordinates of the incident location.
While in flight, the location and progress of the aircraft are tracked via radio communications. Whenever the aircraft is outside of radio range, messages are relayed via county sheriff's dispatchers. Some kind of contact must be made with the aircraft every ten minutes. No contact for thirty minutes results in an "aircraft overdue" response, triggering a formal process to locate the aircraft and determine if help is needed.
The center handles the coordination of other services that may be required on the scene. For example, on some interfacility flights, the aircraft may have to land at the local airport, necessitating ground ambulance transport to and from the hospital.
On the flight back to a receiving facility, the center facilitates the exchange of information between the flight crew and the hospital. This may be via direct radio/telephone link to an emergency department, or by relaying messages to the receiving unit by telephone.
For fixed-wing flights, the center will take the initial request and notify the flight crews, as well as Mayo Aviation, Flight For Life Colorado's fixed-wing operator. Mayo is responsible for contacting its own pilots and filing of flight plans. However, the center still coordinates all transport of the crew to and from the airports.
Once airborne, the fixed-wing pilot will coordinate with the center regarding ETA's and relaying any needs of the medical crew. The center will keep the referring facility apprised on the progress of the flight, updating the ETA as needed.
For critical care ground (CCT) transports, The center will take the request from the referring facility and notify the CCT crew. For simultaneous requests, Communication Specialist will consult with the CCT crew to determine proper order of transports, or for the need to refer the request to another service.
Periodically, area facilities will experience surges in certain patient populations, taxing their abilities to take any more patients. When this occurs, a facility will announce a "divert" for that patient area, e.g., ER divert, or ICU divert. The center will track and relay divert status so that patients will not be transported to facilities unable to accept them.
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