OCEAN CITY — After a solid first season in 2011, the Maryland State Police (MSP) will continue the forward deployment of a medevac helicopter in Ocean City this summer to be used in partnership with the Ocean City Beach Patrol (OCBP).
This year, however, the helicopter will be stationed even closer to the action for faster responses.
“It’s actually at the Coast Guard station,” said OCBP Captain Butch Arbin. “We can be deployed many minutes faster.”
During the forward deployment program’s initial run last year, a medevac chopper was housed at the Ocean City airport weekends during the summer. This allowed MSP Aviation to work closely with OCBP rescue swimmers and respond much faster than possible when the choppers are at their typical Salisbury base. This year, that response time was further reduced when MSP decided to base at the coast guard station Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays this summer.
Arbin also pointed out that keeping a helicopter in Ocean City can be even more important in the case of storms.
“You can have bad weather between here and Salisbury,” he said.
Even if skies are too rough to fly through between the two cities, Arbin added that weather could be clear enough within Ocean City itself to allow a chopper to preform rescues.
While no water rescues involving the MSP chopper were needed last year, Arbin still deemed the forward deployment program a success because of the infrastructure that is being laid in the event of an actual emergency.
“The success of it was that we got 12 people fully trained and fully equipped,” he said.
Last week OCBP guards got a refresher course on working with the chopper. Though it was only a re-orientation, Arbin emphasized the need to have anyone working with a medevac helicopter familiar and comfortable with what they need to do.
“Practice is to repeat something so many times it becomes second nature,” he said.
Besides potentially being used to deploy rescue swimmers from OCBP, the chopper is available for medevac transports as well as to assist police searches. And while Arbin is happy that the forward deployment program is running again this year, he explained that MSP Aviation will soon bring even more to the table when they upgrade their fleet of choppers over the next year.
“It’s a bigger aircraft, it’s newer,” said MSP Aviation representative TFC Barry Garver of the incoming 8W139 helicopter, which are expected this winter and featured enhanced medical equipment.