Flight Criteria

When deciding whether to call LifeFlight, hospital and EMS personnel should consider the patient's medical condition and the need for rapid intervention by the medical staff of the receiving hospital. Consider requesting a LifeFlight transport when the following conditions exist: 

  • The time saved by using a helicopter transport improves the patient's chances of recovery or survival. 

  • Weather and road conditions or other factors inhibit use of ground transportation and seriously delay the patient's access to advanced levels of care. 

These guidelines from the American College of Emergency Physicians and the National Association of EMS Physicians can help determine if a patient’s condition is serious enough to warrant helicopter transfer.

Stand-by Request

Helicopter transport can help patients get from the scene of an accident to the hospital in minutes. The following considerations can also help speed up the time it takes to get patients to definitive care:

  • Place LifeFlight on standby at the initial response. A standby request signals the pilot to review the regional weather conditions and if necessary decline or defer the request to another service that may be able to assist in transporting the patient.

  • Rapidly assess and determine if helicopter transport makes sense. 

  • Coordinate with fire support to arrange and assist with landing zone preparation. 

Air Stand-by Policy

When LifeFlight is placed on standby by any service or facility outside of Anderson County, S.C., the helicopter will air stand-by (within safe and prudent guidelines). Air stand-by assembles the flight team, and allows the helicopter to start flying to the scene while the requesting agency assesses the patient and determines if helicopter transport is appropriate. Getting this head start can greatly cut a patient’s transport time in an emergency. If the requesting agency decides helicopter transport is not needed, the flight is cancelled and LifeFlight returns to base.

Weather Turndowns

LifeFlight pilots check the weather at the beginning and intermittently throughout their shift. They keep the communication center updated with our flight status as it pertains to the weather.

GREEN - The weather at the base of operations and in our potential request area has required visibility and ceilings to allow for an immediate launch. Conditions are expected to remain unchanged. 

YELLOW - The weather in parts of our response area may not meet ceiling/visibility requirements or conditions have the potential to deteriorate. All requests need to be verified/accepted by the pilot before launching.

RED - The weather at the base and/or potential request area is below standards of operations and no requests will be accepted at this time. 

LifeFlight is notified when another service turns down a flight because of inclement weather. However, keep in mind that sometimes when one service cannot respond from their direction, LifeFlight can respond from another direction. If you are calling LifeFlight after another agency has turned the request down, report this crucial information to our communication specialist. 

Helicopter Shopping

"Helicopter shopping" refers to the practice offering a previously declined flight to other air ambulance operators without sharing the reasons the flight was declined. 

For example, a local 911 dispatch center might call an air ambulance operator for a transport and the operator turns the flight down because of unfavorable weather conditions, aircraft capabilities or maintenance issues. The dispatch center then makes subsequent calls to other operators without mentioning the previous refusals until an operator, unaware of the complete situation, agrees to accept the assignment. 

This practice can lead an operator initiating a flight that would have been declined if he or she knew all the facts about the assignment. In some cases, helicopter shopping has resulted in fatal accidents. If you’re requesting LifeFlight service, pass along the reason(s) previous operators refused the assignment.