Protocols & Training

Critical resources to help you partner with our team.

24-hour communications center

Call 800.426.2430 (toll-free) or 206.329.2569 (in Seattle) to request emergency air medical services.

Please review our protocol for the care of patients with known or suspected COVID-19.

While the flight crew prepares for takeoff, the Airlift Northwest 24-hour communications center sets in motion a coordinated emergency response network by:

  • Alerting our aviation partners to determine if a flight can be made based on weather and other aviation factors
  • Communicating directly with requesting agencies
  • Collecting and relaying patient information
  • Providing estimated time of arrival (ETA) updates to all involved in the transport procedure
  • Arranging for ground transportation, if required

At the emergency site or hospital — and for the duration of the flight — Airlift Northwest nurses provide critical patient care and convey updated patient information to the staff of the receiving hospital. 

If additional ground transportation is required, Airlift Northwest nurses remain with the patient en route to the receiving hospital.

Learn more about our new mobile and desktop app that activates us with the touch of a button: 206.521.1599 or

Protocols to use when requesting

Preparing to greet an emergency helicopter transport flight:

Inspect the landing zone (LZ). Landing zones should be clear of: 

  • Debris and unsecured materials
  • Brush taller than knee-high


Prepare a brief LZ description: 

  • Note overhead wires, light standards, radio towers, fences, obstructions or other hazards in relation to compass bearings (N,S,E,W).
  • Note surface winds and visibility.


Observe LZ safety and security: 

  • Fire department personnel should maintain a 200' perimeter for bystanders, from aircraft arrival through departure.
  • Personal protective equipment (vision and hearing protection) should be used.


Minimize LZ lighting issues: 

  • No white strobe lights
  • Red lights assist in noting location
  • Flares are OK as long as they are not a fire hazard due to the helicopter downwash.
  • All white lights, such as headlights, should be OFF during landing and takeoff to protect pilot's night vision.

Do not spotlight overhead hazards; park a vehicle beneath overhead hazards.

As the helicopter approaches the landing zone, be sure to:

  • Brief the pilot prior to arrival, noting locations of known hazards in the LZ area.
  • Remain in two-way radio contact throughout landing.
  • Be prepared to call off landing if LZ or helicopter approach becomes unsafe.


While the helicopter is in the LZ: 

  • Do not approach the helicopter until the rotor blades have stopped.
  • Approach the helicopter only from the front, once directed by the flight crew.
  • Do not walk around the tail, even when aircraft is shut down.
  • Maintain the LZ security and light restrictions at all times.
  • Review known hazards with the pilot before aircraft departure.

The following precautions should be followed for helicopter departure: 

  • Clear all ground personnel away from the helicopter before the engine starts.
  • No one may approach after engine(s) started.
  • Re-establish two-way radio contact with pilot and confirm the LZ is secure.
  • Notify the pilot immediately if an unsafe situation develops.

The following is an example of a LZ brief.


"Airlift, this is (LZ command). 

The landing zone is a (roadway, school, parking lot, field), surrounded by (street trees, buildings, fences), approximately (dimensions), marked by (strobes, lights, flares, cones). 

Obstacles and hazards in the area are (wires, light standards, radio towers, fences) to the (note in each compass direction). 

Surface winds are (calm, light, variable, strong, gusting) in (compass direction). 

Clearest path of approach is from the (direction)." 

Landing Zone Information provided and approved by Air Methods.

Provide the following information for pre-hospital calls

Where is the landing zone?

When selecting a landing zone, we always recommend landing Airlift Northwest at the scene of the incident. We understand that sometimes the scene doesn't allow for safe operation so we are able to land in a variety of areas from large city parks to small riverbeds. Each landing zone presents its own challenges, which our crews are trained to adapt to.

Who is the ground contact?

A ground contact is used for direct, two-way communication with the pilot and the landing zone coordinator, such as an aid unit or engine company. Preferably, the ground contact should be on site, coordinating the landing zone.

Please provide the following information for inter-hospital transport

  • Name of the person requesting transport
  • Referring hospital phone number
  • Your telephone number, with area code and extension
  • Referring hospital and physician
  • Receiving hospital and physician
  • Name, age and weight of patient
  • Patient information – the patient's diagnosis, vital signs and medications – to help Airlift Northwest determine if any special equipment or supplies not normally carried on the aircraft are necessary. These could include blood products, an isolette, traction device or pacemaker.
  • Weather conditions at your facility.

During certain times of the year, weather conditions can vary and affect the ability to land an aircraft at your facility or a nearby landing area. The 24-hour communications center may ask for a description of weather conditions at your facility. Is it foggy or snowing? Can you see the tops of the trees, the stars?

Your assistance in providing this essential information will ensure the best possible outcome for patients.

What radio frequency can Airlift Northwest use for ground contact?

Airlift Northwest's helicopters have the latest in radio technology, allowing us to talk to other responding units, both on the ground and in the air. We have access to conventional VHF and UHF frequencies as well as 800MHz talk groups. We maintain a robust list of pre-programmed radio frequencies in our aircraft to use local, state and federal radio systems.

When possible we prefer to directly communicate with crews on scene or in the landing zone. Often we find our time on the ground can be decreased when we can get a patient report while we are responding to the scene.

The best radio frequencies are those that have the best coverage in the area to which we are responding. There is a good chance we have your agency's radios programmed in our aircraft but if we don’t, we can always revert to the statewide frequencies such as REDNET, LERN and STATEOPS.

If you would like further information on the communications capabilities of Airlift Northwest, please contact the communications center Supervisor at 206.965.1940.

What is the response type?

The 24-hour communications center needs only a brief description of the patient and situation for a pre-hospital transport.

"Adult trauma... pediatric near drowning... high-risk OB... MVA... gunshot wound" provides sufficient information for dispatch — and gives Airlift Northwest and the receiving facility an idea of what to expect and how to prepare.

Who is the receiving hospital?

The pre-hospital provider, in conjunction with his or her medical control, should determine the appropriate receiving hospital. The 24-hour communications center communicates with the receiving hospital as soon as possible so that the hospital can:

  • Have sufficient and specialized staff on site to care for the patient
  • Ensure the landing pad will be ready to receive the helicopter
  • Arrange for ground transportation from the helipad, if needed

What is the weather like at the landing zone?

While it may be clear and dry at the point of takeoff, the landing zone may be fogged or snowed in. Typical weather questions asked by the Airlift Northwest 24-hour communications center are:

  • What is the estimated ceiling?
  • Can you see the tops of the trees? The stars?
  • Is it snowing?

Airlift Northwest Landing Zone Training Video