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The Advanced Life Support and Emergency Rescue Team (A.L.E.R.T) program at Logan Health recently took off on its 20,000th medical dispatch, a major milestone in the program’s storied 47-year history. The landmark dispatch took place shortly after 9 p.m. on Wednesday, July 13, 2022, when the rotor responded to the scene of an accident near Libby.

The rotor, known as A.L.E.R.T I, is a Bell 407 helicopter that serves an approximately 350-mile radius around Kalispell. Flights are common to communities such as Eureka, Libby, Cut Bank, Browning and Ronan, as well as Glacier National Park and the many rural areas that surround the Flathead Valley. Staffed with rotor pilots, highly trained registered nurses and emergency medical technicians, the helicopter now transports approximately 345 patients per year, a large number of which take place in the busy summertime months.

Founded in 1975, the A.L.E.R.T  program was the second hospital-based advanced life support helicopter system in the United States and the first of its kind in rural America. In the spring of 1975, a young logger sustained a critical head injury in a remote area and was transported by the only means available, a nearby private helicopter, which was not equipped for patient transport. This style of transport did not allow for treatment during the flight, and unfortunately, the young man died. This tragedy led to the development of a coordinated, hospital-based helicopter rescue system culminating in what is now known as A.L.E.R.T.