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Post-rescue considerations.

There you are: On a CONUS peacetime mission with a catastrophic failure in your aircraft, which is unresponsive to all proper Dash One procedures and results in an ejection. The ejection goes smoothly. The post-ejection life support procedures are uneventful. You are basically OK medically and are boots-on-the-ground near an urban city. Now what? This article will address some of the post-parachute landing fall ejection experiences I had following a very similar incident. Also included are some ideas for safety officers or commanders who are responsible for training aircrew or Air Force incident response team members (both safety and medical personnel).

Ours is an information society. The local community emergency first-responders (i.e., firefighters, police, and ambulance) will each ask you a whole litany of questions (e.g., base of assignment, rank, full name, social security number, home address and home phone number, etc.). They will then broadcast any and all information you provided over their radios (see next paragraph). Wing safety offices should consider consulting local first-responders so a decision can be made about the minimum information that must be provided by downed aircrew members. All aircrew members then need to be briefed on this information release policy so they are ready in advance. I had to make these decisions on the fly. As a starting point. I recommend aircrew limit their on-scene initial information release to: base of assignment, aircraft type and call sign, military rank, last name, and last four of social security number.

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Radio scanners are everywhere. Therefore, expect the press to be on scene very quickly, even possibly before local emergency first-responders. The press will push for an impromptu interview or comment. If you answer any of their questions, you might pre-empt the Air Force's need for thoughtful press interaction or potentially compromise the Safety Board or Aircraft Incident Board's respective missions. Your best bet is to sanitize your uniform (if your squadron does not fly training missions sanitized) and politely, but firmly, refer the press to your installation's Public Affairs office.

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The safety and medical personnel on the nearest Air Force installation's incident response team might play a bit of tug-of-war over who has priority with a downed aircrew member. To avoid this, each base needs to clearly establish their incident response team's priorities; it should be relatively easy. First priority should be for an Air Force flight surgeon to verify the Airman is or is not injured and to ensure all aviation physiological hazards are properly addressed. If the Airman is injured or an aviation hazard needs attention, the medical team will keep priority. If not, then the flight safety officer should gain priority to provide the Airman their safety privilege brief and capture the Airman's initial testimony. Furthermore, I recommend each base's incident response medical team is trained on the locations and capabilities of civilian medical laboratories in the communities surrounding that base. They also need to be comfortable using them. The continuing Base Realignment and Closure process makes it more and more likely a near-scene civilian medical facility might be the best option to collect the required blood and urine samples.

Cell phones are a blessing and a curse. Expect almost every member of the incident response team, both at the nearest Air Force installation and your home station, to have a cell phone. If the respective team leaders do not control cell phone usage, the whole incident response process can quickly devolve into too many phone calls and not enough action in a timely manner. In my case, most of the cell phone calls appeared to be asking for the same information from multiple levels in the chain of command. Other than the incident team leader, I recommend the other safety and medical responders turn off their cell phones until they have completed their piece of the response. A good policy is: Do your job first; talk second.

Finally, interaction with your home station can get a bit tricky. You will have to balance what level of information is or is not proper to release to your home station's chain of command prior to the arrival of the Interim Safety Board personnel. You have several options for your first call back to home station: command post, supervisor of flying, or your squadron. I recommend your first call be made to your squadron commander, operations officer, or Top-3. Let them keep the chain of command informed until the battle staff is up and running. Once the home station battle staff is stood up, I suggest you then route your communications only through them. It was clear that my home station chain of command had a "need to know" about: my location and health status, the location and status of the aircraft, and any potential bio-environmental impacts (e.g., weapons, hydrazine, fuel, dropped objects, etc.). However, the natural human tendency to ask questions on the sequence of events and any potential causes could breach the Interim Safety Board's sphere of influence.

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These were some of the situations I encountered, which I had not thought a lot about or been briefed on prior to my ejection. Hopefully, this article will generate some discussions during your next Situation Emergency Procedures Training session or your base's next Major Accident Response Exercise debrief.

by Lt Col Maurice Salcedo, Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C.
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Author:Salcedo, Maurice; Johnson, Seymour
Publication:Combat Edge
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2006
Words:893
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