Community Emergency Lit Landing Sites (CELLS) were piloted by MAAC in 2015 allowing trained local volunteers to assist our aircrew by using portable light units to allow forward deployment of the aircraft closer to incidents in support of our West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) colleagues. The light units, which are stored at pre-surveyed sites, can be rapidly deployed in an emergency to mark a safe landing area and identify hazards so that our helicopters are able to land safely after official nightfall to enable additional specialist medical resources to be deployed and the retrieval of patients from remote areas to specialist care.
The first phase of these temporary-lit helipads in remote areas in the west of our operating area launched in 2015/16. Phase 1 saw the installation of equipment at sites in Bridgnorth, Ludlow, Bishops Castle and Shobdon Airport, which were deployed twice during the initial season to support air ambulance operations in these remote locations.
The innovative project expanded with Phase 2 in winter 2016/17, to include a new site at Tilstock in north west Shropshire. The concept proved so successful that FEC Heliports developed and refined the equipment as a commercial product line. With assistance from the County Air Ambulance Trust’s HELP Helipad appeal, we were able to add further sites in Hereford and Drayton Manor, which commenced operations in 2018. A further site at Edgbaston in Birmingham allows night time transfers into Birmingham from these remote regions in to the Birmingham Children’s Hospital. A further site at Bromyard in Herefordshire is currently in build and the team will be trained and ready for autumn 2019.
On completion of this phase of the project there will be nine CELLS sites in operation. The expansion of the project would not have been possible without the dedicated support from the local community CELLS volunteers and also grant funding from the County Air Ambulance Trust HELP appeal.