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Essex & Herts Air Ambulance Trust to deploy Bristol’s new air ambulance suit

Air ambulance crews can extricate casualties from accidents where there is a high risk of exposure to fire
Soft and flame resistant fabric, Nomex Comfort, is ideal for use in garments that have to be worn for longer periods

UK air ambulances covering England, Scotland and Wales now operate through 25 services and have become a vital emergency rescue resource in getting seriously ill or injured people to hospital. Protection required by the crews when carrying out their hazardous rescue operations has identified the need for specialist protective garments. Bristol has developed and launched a new air ambulance suit which has gone into service with Essex & Herts Air Ambulance Trust.

Over the past few years, the benefits of allowing emergency ambulance crews to access hazardous areas more quickly has led to the development of more protective technical rescue garments. In common with their ground based colleagues in the Hazardous Area Response Teams (HART), air ambulance crews are now able to extricate casualties from the scene of accidents in which there is a high risk of exposure to fire, as well as chemical spillages and hydrocarbon and blood borne pathogen contamination.

Having launched its second generation incident ground kit for the UK’s HARTs in late 2011, Bristol’s development work with a number of air ambulances has resulted in the introduction of new specialised protective garments for the crews which normally consist of the pilot, a paramedic and a doctor. The new kit takes the form of a one piece, single layer, coverall. The chosen fabric, Nomex® Comfort, is a flame resistant but soft and flexible fabric making it ideal for use in a garment often being worn over prolonged periods and in restricted spaces such as those experienced in air ambulance helicopters. The coverall shares a common styling with its XFlex™ stable mates and features zip closures in the legs, abrasion resistant covered kneepads with a wide range of pocket configurations.  

Stuart Elms, Clinical Lead at Essex & Herts Air Ambulance Trust commented, “Essex & Herts Air Ambulance Trust worked closely with Bristol to design a hard wearing, strong and functional Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) flight suit that fulfils the required aviation, fire and on-scene protection that we require. The suits have excelled despite some demanding incidents. We continue to work with Bristol to add ideas that the HEMS team may have to maintain suit development and innovation.

Richard Cranham, International Sales Manager at Bristol, added, “Once again, Bristol has looked at the growing needs of the wider emergency services market to identify opportunities for us to develop and produce new protective garments for specialist activities. Following on from our speculative approach to the ambulance market in 2006, which resulted in the development of the incident ground kit for the newly formed HARTs, we are now experienced in working with other groups which have, until now, had to rely on clothing made for other purposes with its attendant drawbacks. In the case of the air ambulance teams, we have identified the need for light weight, comfortable and flexible clothing. Using a basic but flexible design, the coverall is easily adapted to meet the needs of individual air ambulance crews. Available space is always an important consideration in any of the different types of helicopter in use around the UK. In some cases, such as with Essex & Herts Air Ambulance Trust, crews carry much, if not all, of their emergency kit on them which requires multiple pockets. The Bristol air ambulance coverall specifically meets these needs in a garment which also provides the physical protection required when attending serious accidents which can often involve vehicle collisions where the risk of fire is ever present”.

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