It's a HOT, humid Friday night.
I come to work knowing things might get interesting as the night progresses.
And they do.
Liquid flows in great quantities on evenings like this. Much of that liquid contains alcohol. Alcohol affects judgment. Poor judgment means job security for those of us in EMS.
But increasingly, it brings dangers to us too.
Our flight to pick up the patient, load him, and start the journey to get the care he needed was proceeding uneventfully. At about midnight, somewhere midway between the sending and receiving hospitals, a green FLASH hit me in the face. Your first reaction is, "What the hell is that?!" Your second (involuntary) reaction is to search for the problem in order to try to rectify it. That's a mistake. And it could have blinded me.
Someone, at midnight, out in the middle of nowhere, had pointed a green laser at our helicopter.
The brilliance of the light momentarily shocked and disoriented me. The "What the hell..." reaction contains a great deal of confusion, as your mind tries to sort out what could be causing such a bright light to suddenly appear.
When I finally realized what happened I dialed up the frequency for the closest operating FAA control tower, (in this case an Air Force Base) and reported what had happened. But I knew that action was probably futile...
What would the tower do? Maybe call local law enforcement and report what had happened so that if someone else reported something similar they could begin to track the culprit down. But the likelihood of catching someone doing this in the country in the dark of night is very, very slight.
Who would do such a thing? Why would they take the risk of blinding me and maybe killing all aboard my aircraft?
All sorts of answers come to mind:
An immature individual, thinking no harm would be done.
Someone under the influence of intoxicants, reverting to the thought patterns and immaturity of an adolescent.
Someone irritated by the sound of aircraft flying by on a hot summer night.
Can you think of others that, in an impetuous second, might do something so thoughtless?
We hear more and more reports of lasers being focused on aircraft. And one of the things that scares me is the thought that IF a pilot is blinded by these lights, the accident report will surely come up with big question marks as to why a perfectly healthy pilot flew a perfectly functional aircraft into the ground, killing patient, Nurse, Paramedic, and him/herself.
I now know of two incidences where this has happened to helicopters in our fleet, and in both cases it happened when a patient was on board and the pilot could not divert to investigate and see if he could locate the culprit.
And if this behavior escalates, we're going to have to begin to consider wearing some sort of protective eyewear to preclude being blinded by lasers.
What a world we live in, huh?