“Air Evac Lifeteam is an emergency helicopter aerial service,” Smalling said.
The closest Air Evac base is in McMinn County and serves McMinn, Bradley, Polk, Meigs and Ray counties, as well as Knoxville and parts of Georgia and North Carolina.
Smalling said the team transports patients “in life-or-limb” threatening emergencies. The team is called in by the medical professional at a hospital for hospital transports or by emergency services dispatchers if needed after a car accident. Smalling said the time it takes for a person to be transported to a hospital after an accident can not only save a life, but can also lead to a faster recovery.
She said during the month of September her base had more than 40 flights, a record number for the month.
“Each of our aircraft are equipped with advanced lifesaving equipment,” Smalling said. “They can do pretty much anything they need to do (to keep the patient alive until they reach the hospital).”
Each helicopter has a pilot, registered nurse and paramedic on board. Each base operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Smalling said the helicopters cut time to a hospital in half for those in rural areas. There are enough bases close enough together that multiple bases can be called during an emergency for the same area.
A typical flight costs more than $16,000. Lifeteam bills insurance companies, but this does not always cover the full amount. This is one reason Lifeteam started its membership program. Membership ensures that the entire cost of the flight is covered. Smalling said membership has only gone up once in 25 years and only by $10. A one-year membership for a one-person household is $50 a year. A two-person household is $55 and a three or more person household is $60 for a one-year membership.
Because of new networking between various emergency helicopter services, membership in Air Evac Lifeteam now covers flights by LifeStar or LifeForce emergency helicopters.
Air Evac Lifeteam was started in Missouri by a group of people in a rural area who saw a need for aerial service to get people to emergency care.
“We started in 1985 with one helicopter. Since then we’ve grown to ... servicing 14 states with 95 bases,” Smalling said, commenting that each base covers a 70-mile radius.
More information about membership in Air Evac Lifeteam can be found on their website, www.lifeteam.net.