Point of Egress for Emergency Evacuation on Upper French River
by Geordie Hendrie
In July 2019, I was at the cottage with my wife Janet and fell from an extension ladder while working on the roof of the cottage (there are a myriad of precautionary messages I could insert here and believe me I heard them all after the fact but that is not the point of this story). In any event I sustained serious injuries to my left arm shattering both my elbow and wrist. The accident rendered me immobile and it was clear that I was going to need help getting transported to medical assistance.
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For many years, the UFRCA has entertained the idea of having an air ambulance helipad established at some location at the upper end of the French River near Lake Nipissing. The following chart shows the progress of the helipad proposal in reverse chronological order of related events. In 2009 and 2010, the project got back on the rails and was moving ahead, only to be sidelined by the provincial election in 2010. The project is now moving ahead again and updates will follow. See the section below the chart for information on ORNGE - Ontario Air Ambulance.
July 31, 2011
AGMMoving ahead again. In view of ORNGE, Target Island is the best location
August 1, 2010
AGMProject is moving ahead. Mayor Joanne Savage stated the municipality wants this as well, and will work with the UFRCA.
July 27, 2010
Application was submitted by Paul Cormier to ORNGE for Target Island site. In West Nipissing, Marc Gagnon, Director of Community Services, is the contact
Comments from various cottagers on or near Sandy Island area suggest alternate sites are preferred. Many cite exposure to high wind as a major negative for Target Island.
August 3, 2008 AGM
Announced that proposed helipad at Target Island will be reviewed by the Ministry of Health
Summer 2006, AGM
Cottager questioned status of Target Island medevac site proposal that was discussed in 1997 and 1999.
From the Summer 2006 newsletter
“Will there be additional landing pad sites on the Upper French?” On Oct. 15 (2004 or 2005?) the UFRCA made a formal request to the Chief of Police , West Nipissing, to add additional ‘seasonal’ landing pad at Target island. Chief Lahie would also like to expand the sites. UFRCA will be working with Police, Min. of Health and West Nipissing to explore the adoption of an additional site on Target island.
Plan distributed (note written on July 21 assessment below.)
July 21, 1997
Assessment of Target Island site by Sudbury Air Ambulance. Site inspected via OPP boat with UFRCA member and North Bay Police Jim Boisvert. Viewed 5 potential sites. Target Island was judged excellent for day-use with potential for night site
UFRCA proposes need for helipad site at mouth of French River near Lake Nipissing islands.
ORNGE - AIR AMBULANCE SERVICE
If you have an emergency that you think requires an air ambulance evacuation, contact 911. They will make the necessary arrangements to meet you at the closest air ambulance landing pad. Air Ambulance Paramedics are the highest trained Critical Care Paramedics in the province. The Ontario Emergency Health Services is responsible for the Air Ambulance program. See http://www.ornge.ca/Pages/Default.aspx
For full details on the cost of ambulance (land and air) see http://www.health.gov.on.ca/en/public/publications/ohip/amb.aspx
The following is a summary.
Ontario residents with a valid Ontario Health Card will be charged a $45 co-payment fee. Under certain circumstances, such as being transported out of the province if the medical treatment does not exist in Ontario, there is no co-payment fee. Without a valid Health Card, the co-payment fee is $240.
Canadian citizens who reside in other provinces:
If you are from out of province, and you require an ambulance (air or land) from the Ontario Hospital back to your own province, then you will be required to pay for this transportation. This is not covered by your Health Card. For example, if you were from Manitoba and suffered a stroke at your cottage, and were transported to the Trauma Centre in Sudbury, there would be no charge for the air ambulance (except for $45 fee). However, if you then wanted to be transferred at some point from Sudbury to a hospital in Manitoba (either by land or air) then you would have to pay for this service. It is therefore recommended that cottagers from other Canadian provinces obtain additional health insurance (or make sure your company insurance covers it) that would cover the cost of transportation back to their original province if required.
All foreign residents must pay the full cost of land or air ambulance service. The Air Ambulance will send the patient a bill 4 to 8 weeks after the incident. The bill will cover the entire cost of the flight from the base to pick-up, from pick-up to the hospital, and then from the hospital to the base. It is recommended that all foreign residents obtain medical or travel insurance and make sure that it covers air ambulance flights. The average cost of a flight is $3000 CDN and can vary according to flight and circumstances.
In 2002, a US cottager was flown from Keystone to the trauma unit in Sudbury. He related the following: “Our USA Medicare did not cover any "foreign" medical bills. ALL out of country medical charges were self-pay, either out of pocket or health and accident insurance policies. My Medicare supplemental insurance policy covered 80% of all my bills. The air ambulance charges were somehow lumped in with the hospital bill. That's all I can tell you about it, but I would again praise the nursing and the Orthopaedic care I received at the old St Joe's in Sudbury from now until doomsday. It was great!!!”
The ORNGE helicopter Air Ambulance can land at your cottage if you can not make it to a landing site and if conditions permit. If you are part of West Nipissing, then the 911 service will give them your GPS coordinates. If you are on the South Shore, you will need to give directions (latitude and longitude GPS coordinates, landmarks). If retrieval from the cottage is the only option, and they can not land on your property, they will lower the paramedics to your dock. The Air Ambulance will fly to the closest landing location and then return and retrieve the patient when ready to be moved.
FOR ORNGE LANDING ZONE SAFETY REQUIREMENTS - SEE
Currently there is one official landing pad on the Upper French River. It is located at Dokis First Nation. There used to be a second site at Keystone Lodge that was used occasionally but it is no longer used. (Keystone was not a certified site and was only able to be used during the day and not at night.) Any night time evacuations would have to be done through the landing pad at Dokis, or at a certified site (with lights, etc.) The only certified site within the Upper French River is at Dokis.
UFRCA recognizes the importance of having additional landing sites throughout the Upper French River. In 2004, the UFRCA made a formal request to West Nipissing Police and (then) Chief of Police Lahie to add an additional “seasonal” landing pad on Target Island. Chief Lahie stated at the time that he would also like to expand the air ambulance sites, especially with the introduction of 911 service to the River. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as it sounds. Currently the Ministry of Health no longer pays for the development of a helicopter landing pads. Therefore, in order for the Air Ambulance to recognize another location such as Target Island, a landing pad must first be built. It remains to be seen whether the municipality will cover the cost or not.
HELICOPTER LANDING PAD REGULATIONS
There are two sets of regulations for building helicopter landing pads:
1. Transport Canada Heli-pad standards are very complex. They are designed for high use. A pad of this design can cost in the range of $14,000 to $20,000.
2. Company Approved Heli-pads are less regulated and less costly to build. These pads, while not approved by the federal government, are recognized by the Canadian Helicopters Association, and as a result, the Air Ambulance services will recognize these sites.
The UFRCA therefore would like to see a “Company Approved Heli-pad” site built on Target Island.
For a Company Approved site one needs:
Approved Ministry approved reflective cones ($6000 - $7000)
Total Area of 100’ x 100’, with a 30’ x 30’ landing site
Landing zone made of patio stones or granular A gravel. (Asphalt softens in hot weather.)
Higher elevation if possible
Boat access e.g. a dock
8 degree glide path (with no trees in close proximity)
The down-wash from the helicopter blades is 10,000 lbs. It can flip boats and scatter loose debris.
Maintenance - The Ministry will allow you to declare a landing site to be “seasonal” avoiding the need for winter maintenance. However, an Air Ambulance can still land at a seasonal site after it “closes” at the discretion of the pilot.
If funding can be approved, then the Ministry would like a recommendation of 3 possible sites on the Upper French River. They will then visit all three locations and choose which one they would recommend.
Source: Tony Jocko, Ministry of Health, Emergency Health S