The SAR service

person by Trude Meland, Norwegian Petroleum Museum
Petroleum operations on the Norwegian continental shelf are governed by the Petroleum Activities Act of 22 March 1985, which states that a licensee must maintain effective emergency preparedness at all times.
— SAR helicopter (rescue helicopter) on the Statfjord B helicopter deck. Photo: Arne Evensen/Norwegian Petroleum Museum
© Norsk Oljemuseum

The aim is to respond to accidents and hazards which could cause injury or loss of human life, pollution or great material damager. One of the measures taken in that respect is the emergency helicopter on Statfjord.[REMOVE]Fotnote: NOU 1997, 3

A lot of medical equipment is carried on the SAR helicopter. Photo: Arne Evensen
A search and rescue (SAR) helicopter has been permanently placed on Statfjord B since the early 1980s as part of the emergency response organisation.

Although it continues to be stationed on the B platform, operational control has been transferred to Statfjord C. The latter is the base for the air transport coordinator for the Tampen area of the North Sea (LTT).

Ambulance and rescue services for offshore installations are the helicopter’s primary duty, but it is also available to the joint rescue coordination centre (JRCC) on land as and when required.

Its location out to sea means that this machine is also close to important fishing grounds and shipping routes. In addition to ambulance flights from platforms, it can retrieve people from the sea and pick up sick or injured people from ships. The helicopter crew comprises two pilots, a technician/lift operator, a rescue officer and a nurse with specialist qualifications in acute medicine.

Operator Statoil purchases this service under contract from civilian helicopter companies, and its only employee in the crew is the nurse. Strict health standards related to suitablity and physical requirements are set for the SAR nurses. They must be qualified to sedate patients suffering certain kinds of injuries.

The general rule is that the nurse does not descend to the injured person. That job belongs to a rescue officer, who up brings the victim. In some cases, however, a patient must be stabilised before they can raised on a stretcher or in a sling. The rescue officer then descends first and guides the nurse down.

Getting onto a vessel and starting medical treatment can be difficult in rough seas. Working on a helicopter during a flight is also demanding in terms of surroundings, communication and being the only medical specialist on board.

The SAR nurse is subordinate to the duty doctor on medical issues. They also have special functions on top of patient care, such as operating the forward-looking infrared camera (Flir) – a heat-seeking device used in SAR operations.[REMOVE]Fotnote: Scandinavian Journal of Trauma, Resuscitation and Emergency Medicine. 2004, no 12, pp 233-235.

The main job is to be on duty around the clock, ready to turn out on ambulance assignments, provide medical assistance and evacuation, and protect against oil spills.

Being as well prepared as possible to handle potential incidents at all times calls for a lot of training. Effective practice time in a helicopter is at least five hours per week, plus briefing and debriefing. Much of this time is devoted to pick-up training, with the rescue officer and SAR nurse being lowered down to vessels of various sizes or other people being hoisted up from the sea, rafts and boats.

The rescue service in the Tampen area carries out 50-70 ambulance assignments per year. Seventy per cent involve illness, the rest injuries. Most call-outs from installations involve heart problems. Other jobs include assisting the JRCC to retrieve people from fishing boats.

Published November 14, 2019   •   Updated November 21, 2019
© Norsk Oljemuseum
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