HELENA – First responders have to constantly train to provide the highest level of care in the most critical situations.

When REACH Air Medical services team hears a loud alarm, they race to the helicopter to respond to an emergency.

“The moment the tone goes off, my partner and my pilot and I are thinking ‘safety first’,” said Crystal Knutson, Flight Paramedic for REACH Air Medical Services.

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Before the helicopter leaves the ground, the team checks weather conditions and equipment.

“My partner and I strategize about what we’re going to need on scene, and how we are going to run the scene,” said Knutson.

Crystal is a flight paramedic with REACH Air Medical Services, she’s been flying for 3 and a half years, and has worked as a paramedic for 17 years.

In Wednesday’s simulation, firefighters are already on the scene, stabilizing the patient.

In a rural state like Montana, time is critical, sometimes the nearest hospital is hours away.

“Time is of the essence because it takes so long for them to get to those patients; where we can get there in a fast, timely manner,” said Knutson.

In this field of work time is crucial, life or death. It boils down to first responders only having a matter of seconds to safely airlift the patient.

Brad Smith a firefighter with York Fire, said first responders need to be focused at all times, air crews and ground crews need to act as one.

“Don’t screw up. I try to remember all the things that I’ve been trained and try to be as helpful to the team as humanely possible and keep that patient safe,” said Smith.

Helena doesn’t have a level 1 or 2 trauma center, so when air medical is requested, it’s serious.

“It’s really critical in flight that you stay 10-12 steps ahead of whatever disease, process, or trauma that’s going on. We always try to plan out a few steps ahead of time,” said Travis Weiss, RN and CCRN Flight Nurse for REACH.

The H-125 Euro-Copter, that REACH Medical, can fly 150 miles per hour and holds 147 gallons of fuel.

The helicopter can reach help patients in major hospitals like Salt Lake City or Seattle, so they receive the life saving care they need.

“It’s just different from sitting in a bed, when you’re in a bed flying 24,000 feet somewhere, so we have to have our ducks in the row,” said Weiss.

Weiss said his job is fulfilling, as it’s an opportunity to save lives every day.

“Oftentimes we see our patients again, see how well they do. They stop by, or run into around town, and it’s nice to get that contact and closure with them,” said Weiss.

“I’m just blessed to do what I love to do, and to fly in this beautiful state, and help people who are critically injured or sick,” said Knutson.

REACH Air Medical operates a helicopter and a fixed wing aircraft in Helena, and also has a helicopter base in Bozeman.