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

UPDATE: Vehicle rams boat into Courtenay home

Driver failed sobriety test, issued roadside prohibition and subsequently released

Jangula denounces Culture Guard endorsement

Has asked to be removed from list

Preliminary inquiry for Island resident facing numerous charges in Comox Valley shooting

A 27-year-old Saanich resident had his preliminary hearing in Courtenay Wednesday as… Continue reading

VIDEO: This is what buying legal pot in B.C. looks like

Take a look inside B.C.’s first and only legal pot shop located in Kamloops

VIDEO: Leaf Compassion celebrates legalization in Courtenay

Leaf Compassion in Courtenay celebrated the official legalization of marijuana in Courtenay… Continue reading

Mellow opening to B.C.’s only legal pot shop

About five people lined up early for the opening of the BC Cannabis Store in Kamloops.

Driving with dope: Police talk rules on cannabis in the car

Even though pot is legal, you can’t smoke in the car

B.C. NDP retreats again on empty-home tax for urban areas

Rate reduced for all Canadians, dissident mayors to get annual meeting

B.C. teens fined for possession of pot on legalization day

The pair received $230 fines for smoking pot in public

Trio of Saint Bernard find their ‘forever home’ after story goes viral

Edmonton Humane Society had put out the call to adopt Gasket, Gunther and Goliath

Nurses deliver 24,000 anti-violence postcards to B.C. Health Minister

Nurses delivered thousands of postcards to the front steps of the B.C. legislature, each carrying a message for violence prevention

Openly gay, female priest of B.C. church defying norms

Andrea Brennan serves Fernie at pivotal time in church’s history

Nova Scotia works to stop underage online cannabis sales

The government cannabis retailer moves to prevent workaround of online-age verification

Foster care is ‘superhighway to homelessness,’ B.C. youth advocate says

Katherine McParland grew up in foster care and lived on the streets

Most Read