Dr. Mark A. Fox, of Crossville, medical director for Cumberland County EMS with oversight for emergency care outside the hospitals, states that Cumberland County is currently served by four air ambulance services. Those are Erlanger Hospital's Life Force, UT Medical Center's UT Lifestar, Vanderbilt Medical Center's LifeFlight, and Air Evac Lifeteam. Together, they airlift about 300 patients out of Cumberland County each year to Level 1 trauma centers.
"Cumberland County Communications requests the aircraft, then the respective air ambulance service routes their aircraft," states Fox. "Each air service has their own medical director, (and) they work and function under his/her oversight." As for where the patient will be flown, Fox states, "If the patient is conscious and capable of making an informed request, the aircraft will transport the patient to their choice of hospital if the hospital has the capability to care for their problems." All the services say they will fly patients to any hospital they need to go to, not just the one they are operated by.
Fairfield Glade Fire Chief Howard Robb says he has observed that the air ambulances most frequently launched to the Glade are the Life Force helicopters from Sparta and Chattanooga and the UT Lifestar helicopters from Lebanon, Andersonville, and Knoxville. These are the ones with the quickest estimated time of arrival (ETA). The decision who to dispatch to the scene is made at EMS.
Air Evac, the air ambulance service that closed its Crossville base a couple of years ago, is still able to serve Cumberland County from Albany, KY or Etowah, TN. Those two bases are within a 30-minute range of Crossville and Fairfield Glade.
Dr. Fox states that since Air Evac left Crossville, "We are constantly working trying to have a (air ambulance) service station a craft here, such as UT, Erlanger, Vanderbilt, etc."
Air Evac Lifeteam is the largest membership-based air ambulance service in the country. Many people in Cumberland County signed up for Air Evac memberships during the time the service operated a base in Crossville. Memberships are offered in 1, 3, and 5-year increments, so some are still in effect today, and Air Evac continues to encourage membership renewals. Naturally, those holding memberships or being asked to renew have questions about the validity of such memberships and if the other flight services serving the area will honor Air Evac memberships.
There are a couple of answers to those questions:
First, the memberships still in effect or renewed do remain valid with Air Evac.
Second, regarding other services honoring Air Evac memberships, the answers are different, depending on the service.
For instance, Erlanger LifeForce and UT Lifestar are owned by the same large holding company that Air Evac is held by. Therefore, they will honor the Air Evac membership contracts as long as they are owned by the same holding company.
When it comes to Vanderbilt LifeFlight, it is owned by Vanderbilt Medical Center, and, by law, cannot honor Air Evac membership contracts.
Life Force serves Cumberland County from its base at the Upper Cumberland Regional Airport, in northern White County, and just south of downtown Cookeville. The service flies several models of aircraft, including the EC 135 twin engine, Bell 412 and Bell 407 helicopters. Every resource available to the aircraft and crew at Erlanger Base is also available to the Sparta Base aircraft and crew. Their third base, LifeForce 3, is in Calhoun, GA. They are all dispatched from the Communications Center at Erlanger Base, where the aircraft can also be tracked by the communications specialist. According to their communications center, an estimated time of arrival (ETA) from the Sparta Base to Crossville is 16-18 minutes and to Fairfield Glade is 20-22 minutes.
UT Lifestar has four additional bases in East Tennessee besides Knoxville; they are Sweetwater, Andersonville, Sevierville, and Morristown. Its emergency medical helicopters include two Eurocopter EC-135s, two Bell 407s and a Bell 430. Their ETA from the base in Sweetwater to Cumberland Medical Center is approximately 17 minutes, after the initial five minutes allowed for getting off the ground. After a four-minute allowance to get off the ground, the ETA from Andersonville is 21 minutes, and from the base at UT, it's 22 minutes.
Vanderbilt LifeFlight has four additional bases in Middle Tennessee other than the hospital in Nashville. They include Lebanon, Tullahoma, Clarksville, and Mt. Pleasant. LifeFlight utilizes three American Eurocopter ec145 helicopters, two American Eurocopter ec135 helicopters, a King Air 200 fixed wing aircraft, and specialized neonatal critical care ambulances. By air, the ETA to Crossville from the Lebanon base is 33 minutes and to Fairfield Glade is 35 minutes, states Jerry Jones, their public affairs manager.
Fairfield Glade Fire Department's Jim Etzel defines the four designated landing zones in the Glade. Those zones are:
1. Peavine Rd. and Woodgate — in either the FG Church of Christ parking lot or the open grass field by the church parking lot.
2. Behind the FGCC administration building on Peavine Rd., in the grass field to the right.
3. Dartmoor Dam
4. FG United Methodist Church parking lot (in the far back corner to the right).
Etzel says, "The guys on those crews are really good. It's a pleasure to work with them. But, sometimes they have to turn down a call due to bad weather and not being able to see things like antennas, and so forth." He adds, "If we had to get a lot closer, we could possibly land one on a golf course, but we try not to do that."
Chief Robb adds, "Besides the landing zones, we can pick out a street that's wide enough too — I have that discretion."
Fairfield Glade Community Club President Bob Citkovic states, "I believe this program has elevated the level of emergency medical care for stroke victims that our residents receive to a level far above the level that the rest of the country receives, and we are thankful that stroke victims now have a greater chance of complete recovery."
If anyone has additional questions about a particular service, contact information for the services follows:
Erlanger Life Force (located in Sparta)
Steve Strong, Program Director (423) 778-5427
Erlanger Health System LIFE FORCE 975 E. Third Street Chattanooga, TN 37403
UT Lifestar— in Tennessee (800) 792.1033
LIFESTAR Aeromedical Services 1924 Alcoa Highway Knoxville, TN 37920 (865) 305-9112
Vanderbilt Life Flight
Jerry Jones, Public Affairs Mgr., (615) 343-6086
Vanderbilt LifeFlight 1211 Medical Center Drive Skyport Helipad - VUH 13200 Nashville, TN 37232-7430
Air Evac Lifeteam
Phone: (606) 387-9099
106 Emergency Services Drive
Albany, KY 42602-9548
Chief Robb can be contacted at the Fairfield Glade Fire Department at 484-3801.