Providing Psychological First Aid for Delta Passengers

North Shore-LIJ emergency management vehicle at LaGuardia
North Shore-LIJ emergency management vehicle at LaGuardia

EAST ELMHURST, NY – When the approximately one dozen North Shore-LIJ Health System emergency medical technicians (EMTs) arrived at LaGuardia airport following the Delta Flight 1086 runway skid, they provided needed psychological first aid for the passengers of the plane.

“Our attitude is ‘the emergency stops whenever we get there, ” explained Gary Stark, North Shore-LIJ EMT supervisor who was at LaGuardia. “When we get there, we calm people down and talk them through what they just experienced.”

Before the EMTs in four different ambulances arrived at the scene, they were listening to information coming in on their radios.

“Being able to handle situations like this kicks back to our training for large-scale incidents,” Mr. Stark said.

There were a lot of people to triage aboard that plane, but through training and past incidents, the North Shore-LIJ EMTs were ready to handle it with the help of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) and Port Authority Police Department (PAPD) who were also at the scene. These three groups created a unified command center in the Delta terminal to coordinate assistance and effectively manage the situation.

"The way the North Shore-LIJ Center for Emergency Medical Services (CEMS) supervisors handled this chaotic event really opened my eyes to what a streamlined system we have," said Khalid Islam, paramedic at North Shore-LIJ CEMS. "We have the resources to deal with a big event like this. We have level-headed leaders who can coordinate and organize highly-trained employees to deal with these situations. And, we have the support of a health system that prioritizes the patient's well-being above the other distractions that may plague other hospitals and agencies."

Passengers were taken to the Delta  Sky Club to be assessed.

“Everyone walked off the wing of the plane,” Mr. Stark recalled. “They were then put on a bus and transported to the Delta terminal where they were triaged. If anyone had needed immediate medical assistance, there was an ambulance at the site.  Because of leaking fuel, the goal is to get everyone to a safer location.”

"We set up two areas of the Sky Club with injured patients by the window in one area and non injured passengers in the other areas of the club," said Thomas Dunleavy, paramedic supervisor at North Shore-LIJ CEMS. "The paramedics and EMT's of North Shore-LIJ who were on scene, many of whom also work in the New York City 911 system, performed admirably while providing quality pre-hospital care, treatment and transportation to area hospitals. It is the care they provide every day; they work only on a larger and more publicized scale."

Patients were triaged using various coded tags. Most were walking and did not require medical care.  Three patients were treated at North Shore-LIJ’s Forest Hills Hospital.

“In situations like this, there’s a lot of psychological first aid,” Mr. Stark said. “You assess the person’s health and symptoms, provide appropriate treatment and let them know that what they experienced was scary and you understand that.”

Topics: News

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