On Friday, Feb. 1, Maryland„ Gov. Martin O’Malley announced a multi-year effort to improve public safety and emergency response in„Maryland. O’Malley, joined by Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith, Maryland State Police (MSP) Col. Terence B. Sheridan, Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems Executive Director Bob Bass and Maryland Fire and„EMS leaders announced the allocation of $33.6 million to buy three new state police helicopters to improve the response capabilities of the MSP airborne system.

The funding is part of a multi-year effort to overhaul the MSP helicopter fleet, following a study completed by SMART Business Advisory and Consulting, LLC. Released on May 29, 2007, the report was conducted to provide a comprehensive analysis of the current missions of„Maryland_s law enforcement helicopter fleet, including the Maryland State Police Aviation Command and the Maryland Natural Resources Aviation Division.

Additionally, in November, the„Maryland legislature approved funding of $110 Million to replace the entire fleet of 12 helicopters. The $33.6 million allocated by Gov. O’Malley is to purchase three helicopters this year. Three helicopters will be purchased each year for four years to replace the entire fleet of 12.

Gov. O’Malley told the assembled group, “Public safety is the most important priority of any government. Supporting our first responders in the work they do is an important part of fulfilling the most fundamental responsibility that we have to our state — to safeguard the lives of our citizens, and to ensure the safety of our neighborhoods and our communities.”

But even more importantly, Gov. O’Malley pointed out that„Maryland has such a strong EMS and MedEvac system because the citizens of„Maryland desire, expect and deserve a strong system.

Baltimore County Executive Jim Smith, a member of the board for University of Maryland’s Shock Trauma Center, said, “I am keenly aware of the important role that the MedEvac helicopters play„in saving lives all across the state. The addition of three new helicopters to the state’s fleet is another example of Gov. O_Malley_s commitment to public safety.”

Smith said that it is a government’s responsibility to provide security for its citizens and noted that all of the libraries, parks, and schools mean nothing if the people are not secure. He added that„Maryland’s pledge to continue and improve the MSP Aviation program provides this security.

The Maryland State Police Aviation Command is one of the most elite helicopter programs in the world. It’s a multi-mission unit that provides not just 24/7 law enforcement and homeland security, but also search and rescue, and medical evacuation. In addition to operating a fleet of helicopters, MSP maintains the helicopter in a state-of-the-art maintenance facility.

Only a few states — such as„Maryland,„California,„Delaware and„New Jersey — have implemented statewide aeromedical programs dedicated to the delivery of exceptional„EMS and rescue service from the air in addition to exceptional law enforcement capabilities„

Since 1970, Maryland State Police “Trooper” helicopters have flown more than 120,000 MedEvac missions. MedEvac missions make up 75% of Maryland State Police flights, while 20% are for law enforcement and 5% for search and rescue. Currently, nine of the MSP helicopters are almost 18 years old, two are 13 years old and one is 8 years old.„

“For 38 years, State Police helicopters have provided a vital public safety service to our citizens and in support of all„Maryland police departments and„EMS providers,” Col. Terrence B. Sheridan said. “They are a welcome sight to people who need help and need it fast.”„Sheridan also thanked Gov. O’Malley and the members of the Legislature for their proactive replacement of three helicopters and for ensuring the lifesaving helicopters will keep flying as part of„Maryland_s world-renowned emergency medical services system.„

Robert Bass, Executive Director of the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems and a long-standing proponent of the MSP Trooper helicopters, said: “Maryland_s Emergency Medical Services (EMS) system is a world renowned regionalized, integrated system of emergency care made up of many essential components. The MedEvac operations of the Maryland State Police Aviation Division play a vital role in public safety through the delivery of critically injured patients to the right level of care in the fastest manner necessary to save the lives of those individuals. The Gov.’s commitment to this essential element of our„EMS system will make the difference in saving countless lives.”

Chief Paul H. Sterling, Jr., president of the Maryland State Firemen_s Association, brought tears to the eyes of many in attendance when he„related the view all of us have had as first responders, working hard to save the life of a critical patient and feeling a sense of relief when they hear a MSP “Trooper” helicopter approach.

Sterling said.„”The critical and much-needed funding for new state of the art helicopters for the Maryland State Police Aviation Division exemplifies the true vision of Gov. O’Malley to continue providing the citizens of our state, and those who visit it with the best pre-hospital care and most expeditious transportation available.”

“The Maryland State Police Aviation plays a critical role supporting the daily public safety operations of fire and„EMS,” said John Hohman, chair of Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association. “Each day MSP helicopters transport critically ill patients from the scene of a crash or other critical injury to a trauma center or specialty center. In addition, the state police aviation supports our Advance Tactical Rescue teams in performing technical high-angle and water rescues.”

The “Helicopter Planning Group” (the Team) was created to analyze and plan for the fleet’s replacement.„The Team, which is chaired by the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), has high-level representation from the Gov.’s Office of Homeland Security (GOHS), Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems/Emergency Medical Services Board (MIEMSS/EMS Board), Maryland State Police (MSP) Aviation Command, Department of Natural Resources Police (DNRP) Aviation Division, and the Maryland Military Department (DMIL). Strategic advisors and contractual support for the Team include representatives from the Gov._s Office, GOHS, MDOT, Department of General Services (DGS), EMS Board, MIEMSS, DNRP, MSP, DMIL, and Department of Budget and Management (DBM). The Team also works closely with the EMS Board_s Helicopter Replacement Committee. This committee has representation from other state and local emergency services organizations as well as healthcare organizations.

SMART Business Advisory and Consulting LLC was chosen as the Task Order Agreement (TOA) contractor through a competitive process to assist the Team with current mission analysis, cost/benefit analysis and financing options for potential fleet replacement.

Gov. Martin O’Malley and the Maryland legislature are to be commended for making a multi-year commitment to improve public safety and emergency response in the state because they decided it was the right thing to do and not the result of a catastrophe or a large-scale legislative investigation. They clearly are investing $33.6 million in the program to support an essential, and proven, service for„Maryland’s citizens and its„EMS, fire, rescue and police community. This means that the next generation of Marylanders will have the„EMS system that started in 1969 with vision of legendary trauma surgeon R. Adams Cowley, MD, for many years to come.

A.J. Heightman is Editor-in-Chief of„JEMS and Editorial Director for Elsevier Public Safety Publications: Fire-Rescue Magazine, Law Officer Magazine, Wildland Firefighter Magazine, Public Safety Communications Magazine and the EMS Insider management newsletter.

Special note:„Tours of the Maryland State Police Aviation Division and the„Maryland„Shock„Trauma„Center will be offered at the 2008 EMS Today Conference & Exhibition, in„Baltimore, March 22-29. For more information about how to sign up for these and many more on site tours,„click here.