The Helicopter Assn. International says its first-responder database is up and running, with more than 250 helicopters registered since it became operational last July.
The association formed the database in response to communications gaps that came to light after Sept. 11, 2001 and rescue missions flown in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. The database is designed to allow various government agencies to quickly identify and request specific civil-sector helicopters in the hours and days following a national emergency.
For several years, HAI had held discussions with various federal agencies in an attempt to form a government-sponsored database, but those discussions never got off the ground. When Matt Zuccaro became president of HAI in 2005, he tasked his organization’s information technology department with creating a database independent of the government. "I felt that if HAI didn’t do it, no one would," he said.
HAI’s database contains a search engine that allows government agencies to scan for available helicopters by zip code, latitude and longitude, town, or county. It also calculates the distance of the helicopter’s base to the site where it is needed.
The database is a first step in HAI’s efforts to help coordinate member assets during emergencies, said Zuccaro. HAI is holding talks with various government agencies, including the federal Transportation Dept., the Transportation Security Administration, the Homeland Security Dept., and the FAA to decide how best to use civil helicopters in an emergency. These details include how to create staging and servicing areas, how to ensure the delivery of fuel to helicopters, coordination of ground marshaling, and ways to facilitate communications between mobile command centers, emergency services, and air traffic control.