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Cape first responders train for multi-agency aerial medical evacuation

 The Barnstable County Regional Emergency Planning Committee (BCREPC) will conduct a joint exercise called Operation Mercy Lift Tuesday, June 3, 2014, on Nantucket and Joint Base Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Operation Mercy Lift will encompass a full-scale interagency aviation medical response to a simulated plane crash at Nantucket Memorial Airport. The Massachusetts Army National Guard will join the United States Coast Guard, Cape Air and Boston MedFlight in providing air assets for the operation.

“Barnstable County is a primary source of mutual aid to the Islands,” said BCREPC Coordinator Sean O’Brien. “Through the mutual aid system, resources from Barnstable County are available to assist agencies on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. In a time-sensitive incident, the ability to transport resources to the island and evacuate the injured by air is essential. The United States Coast Guard, Boston MedFlight and Cape Air are part of an existing plan for air support. We are excited about the availability of the Massachusetts Army National Guard’s robust lift and Medevac resources to enhance our ability to respond, not only to the Islands, but also to locations on Cape Cod,” O’Brien said.

The Massachusetts Army National Guard will use its Black Hawk medical evacuation helicopters and flight crews to evacuate simulated casualties of a plane crash from Nantucket. The Guard will provide soldiers to play the role of victims as well as coordinate the mission with civil authorities. As many as five National Guard helicopters will be taking part in the exercise.

Describing the Guard’s role in the exercise, Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, The Adjutant General, Massachusetts National Guard said, “Operation Mercy Lift is a great exercise because it’s a multi-agency aerial medical evacuation training mission using civilian as well as military personnel and equipment. This will provide us with an excellent opportunity to continue to develop and refine our inter-agency communications and planning strategies.”

This exercise will build on the initial Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) notification process and National Guard mission-approval process that was tested in last month’s Operation Safe and Sound, conducted on Martha’s Vineyard.