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How to find out detail about emergency evacuation France, snowHeads ski forum
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How to find out detail about emergency evacuation France

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hello all. Looking for some friendly advice.
We had a very nasty incident last week when my son had an anaphylaxis up a mountain in Italy. It was avoidable and I don't think we will be booking anything other than self catering ever again. However there was a critical issue with getting off the mountain which we need to solve if we can ever go ski again. We had asked the tour company about this before booking and we were assured there is an air ambulance and told where it lands etc. I had also checked out the travel time by road and air to large general hospitals. However we learned during/after the emergency that in Aosta, the air ambulance is not allowed to fly in the valleys after dark.
I would very much like to know how to find out this kind of information before hand for France in case we want to do a self drive/self catered, lowest risk holiday. My French is pretty basic but I can sort out interpretation if there is somewhere where or someone who can help me access this information. I'd like to know how the air amulance system works, how the normal ambulance system works and how we can research how he would be brought to a major hospital so I can understand and compare the risk profiles of different resorts.
Both my children adore the ski holiday and it is a highlight - possibly the biggest highlight of their year. We are not sure that we will feel safe bringing him away again. We won't do so again without investigating this first hand (not trusting a tour company). Please keep the responses friendly without veering into the rights and wrongs of bringing him up a mountain.

Thank you.
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@TravelHappy78, how terrifying. I recommend Helen at Alpine Admin Solutions to do the ringing round for you. She and her team are fantastic and can get incredible info out of organizations. Dependent on where you are going I would contact the medical centre in the town (if there is one), the tourist office and possibly also the Mairie. You have very clear concerns and needs - I am sure you will get a proper answer.
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Maybe try emailing a helicopter company like S.A.F. who do rescues plus one of the resort medical centres. If you are not going away again this winter then perhaps wait until April when they may have more time to reply. Between the two I would expect you could get an idea of how the system works in France.

I would be surprised if anyone flew in the mountains at night.
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Briancon which is part of the Serre Chevalier ski area has a hospital in the town.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
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Consider structuring holidays around staying in valley towns with well developed medical infrastructure rather than access to flight for life. Chamonix, Briancon, BSM spring to mind.
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@TravelHappy78, just trying to understand a bit more. I thought first reading that you were out skiing on the mountain but if it was after dark presumably you were back at a hotel or chalet?
In our experience of living in France, ambulances were pretty speedy or the local pompiers, they came up for a friend in a diabetic coma, and another time when we found a confused elderly German lady wandering around.
I suppose the best source of information would be the tourist information offices of various places you might like to stay.
And often you get good info joining the local FB groups of different villages/resorts.
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Dave of the Marmottes wrote:
Consider structuring holidays around staying in valley towns with well developed medical infrastructure rather than access to flight for life. Chamonix, Briancon, BSM spring to mind.
Totally agreed.
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Stay on the valley floor in a town instead of up a mountain. Austria would work as many resorts are actually working towns or even Innsbruck if you don’t mind a bus each day.
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Quote:

I would be surprised if anyone flew in the mountains at night

And perhaps they wouldn't generally fly by night here, either? I have experience of air ambulance in the UK - one landed on the beach next to my house when my husband had a cardiac emergency. Broad daylight. But I had no idea a helicopter had been despatched - I'd just rung 999. Two ambulances had arrived before the helicopter. It can only be in a very tiny proportion of life-threatening emergencies in the UK that helicopters get involved. Even if I'd decided a helicopter was needed, I'm sure there would have been no way of whistling one up.

From a few experiences I've had, I think the French emergency services are pretty good, and certainly on a par with ours here in the UK. But to be evacuated off a mountain, or out of a remote mountain village at night, is going to take time and surely there can never be any guarantees? The suggestion of staying in a town like Briancon makes good sense, then you could inform yourself about the very specific local situation. Being within close reach of the services you might need would reduce the anxiety.

And welcome to Snowheads. snowHead I hope you and your family will have lots more enjoyable snowy holidays.
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I'd echo the advice to stay in a valley town. I would expect that mountain weather + darkness means there'd be few guarantees of an air rescue being available when needed.

Oh, and just to add - I admire your determination in trying to find a way your kids can continue to do something they enjoy. I (only vaguely) know someone with a severe allergy, and being around them made me realise just how careful you need to try and be.


Last edited by Ski the Net with snowHeads on Mon 31-01-22 22:04; edited 1 time in total
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Combloux is less than 15 minutes' drive to Sallanches hospital
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
As advised above, consider somewhere like Bourg Saint Maurice. Bourg has a good hospital and has direct access to Les Arcs via the funicular.
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Matrix wrote:
Stay on the valley floor in a town instead of up a mountain. Austria would work as many resorts are actually working towns or even Innsbruck if you don’t mind a bus each day.


St. johann and Zell am See are both ski resorts with a hospital or Kufstein for any of the Ski Welt resorts.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
2waterford wrote:
Matrix wrote:
Stay on the valley floor in a town instead of up a mountain. Austria would work as many resorts are actually working towns or even Innsbruck if you don’t mind a bus each day.


St. johann and Zell am See are both ski resorts with a hospital or Kufstein for any of the Ski Welt resorts.
France has been specified in the thread title.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Not only will the choppers not fly at night, they'll also be restricted in poor weather conditions. Low cloud and high winds will also affect them.
I think you need to consider road travel times rather than air, so the suggestions of looking to towns with hospital facilities, are probably the way to go.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
HilbertSpace wrote:
Combloux is less than 15 minutes' drive to Sallanches hospital

As is st Gervais and being lower the roads from both are easier to get to the main town too.
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@TravelHappy78, I'm surprised and isappointed that you'd have had a problem - I would fully expect any secouriste to be familiar with using (and probably be carrying) an Epipen. And to be able to organise very swift evac if required (which may not include helis, for whatever reasons).

Not knowing your child's detailed situation (and not being a medic) it's hard to understand what went wrong but I'm surprised that a typically sensitive individual would not be stabilised on the hill? Then fairly swiftly at least off the hill and into an ambulance.

How do you cope with flying?
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@TravelHappy78, as has been mentioned Briancon is a good call.

Briancon Hospital is first class, I took a friend there this Summer with chest pains, 90mins later he was in a heli being flown to Grenoble.

Plus I've also had to make use of their heli services*

You raise a good point about heli's at night, as I'm right under the heli path I don't see them flying at night ??

Briancon has a lift and is at the end if the Serre Chevalier valley, which has numerous villages and lifts all of which are ten mins or so drive to the hospital, as we've done on numerous occasions.

Best of luck, I go ski-touring with a mate who has to carry a couple of EpiPens due to past incidence of Anaphylaxis, in his case they never found out what the trigger was.

* acl well away from resort and half way up a mountain
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Sounds like 'up the mountain' may have been an evening meal incident in resort rather than on the slopes if it was already too dark for the heli. Hubby (not anaphylaxis) was transferred to Grenoble from Briancon by road as it was dark.
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@Hells Bells, that makes a little more sense, but what would happen at dinner in e.g. central London?

Must say, not convinced how many waiting staff here would be trained to help!
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@under a new name, think you'll find that if people know that they are, or their family are susceptible to Anaphylaxis then they are quite well trained in handling a potential situation.

Reading between the lines of the OP does sound that they were aware of the possibility etc

However, my mate did tell me what to do, but have to say I've forgotten now rolling eyes

Just jab it in his thigh like you see in war movies Laughing
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@Weathercam, I am presuming that too.
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It does depend on the area and facilities as to whether helis fly at night. Our UK village has a designated air ambulance heli landing spot to which the village has installed a floodlight which can be activated by the heli for landing purposes.
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As an aside - Hampshire and the Isle of Wight Air ambulance has night flying capability and does so regularly, usually getting emergency patients off the Island to Southampton General Hospital sometimes the Coastguard Helicopter is used which also fly 24 hours. During Covid a Military Chinook was used - that certainly woke everyone up in the middle of the night!
https://www.hiowaa.org/what-we-do/the-helicopter/
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As a Ski Patroler and International Mountain leader living in France I have a fair bit of background with these things. All serious medical situations are handled by dialing 15. They decide which heli goes where for which individual case. On top of this there are a few pre aranged heli evacuations that are done direct with a certain operator, but always with 15 as a backup and 15 always being kept in the loop.
Example 1- If you are in St Gervais the PGHM in Chamonix is called directly, but they use both their own helicopter and Security Civille (arm of the firebrigade) depending on the day/month/situation but with MB helicopters (Private operator) as a backup.
Example 2 - If you are in Romme (where I work this winter), I call 15 and they arrange which helicopter will come, but it is probably comming from Annemasse or Annecy.
Where they would go depends on the case in question and the state of rediness at that moment in the hospitals. Over Christmass and new year all serious cases that would normaly goe to Sallanches (becuse nearest) went to Annecy or Geneva becuse the ICU was full of Covid patients (100% anti-vax) .
Hope this helps.
Response time is generaly 25 min from patroler arriving to helicopter arriving, but it is of course situation dependent.
Example. I was above Tignes in late september guiding a hiking group. I had a wooman with know Tachicardia (heart rate goes high and stays high) have a serious attack. I called PGHM Bourg st Maurice direct and explained the situation. They scrambled a PGHM helicopter from Modane, which then flew to Grenoble picked up a Cardiologist and then came to us. Call to heli was 46 min. But she was treated on site and well enough to walk off the mountain. Just throwing her in a heli 20 min earlier and rushing her to hospital would have probably killed her!
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@Idris, but do they fly at night ??

Obviously in the mountains there are a few more obstacles when flying compared to the home counties Laughing
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Lots of great advice here, and very generous and kind responses. But it does not seem the OP has responded to any, so I wonder whether the advice is useful!

It also seems that a bit more context/information would be useful in terms of giving the best advice.

More generically it is unreasonable to expect 24 hour immediate heli extraction from anywhere, let alone the mountains at night. And I would never rely on a tour company for this sort of thing, the OP is doing the right thing by resa=earching this directly. Staying in the valley is a good option, and being as self-reliant as possible in the mountains is always a good idea. It sounds like a serious condition indeed if carrying an EpiPen is not sufficient to mitigate it.
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@Idris,
Quote:

I had a wooman with know Tachicardia (heart rate goes high and stays high) have a serious attack. I called PGHM Bourg st Maurice direct and explained the situation. They scrambled a PGHM helicopter from Modane, which then flew to Grenoble picked up a Cardiologist and then came to us
Was she from the UK and do you happen to know if she was insured for such a situation and the consequent costs?
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You know it makes sense.
@Weathercam, very few helicopters fly at night/in poor visibility in the UK, namely emergency ones.
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
I've seen the PGHM land a helicopter in a glade in the dark. I was impressed. Might be a rare event but they will fly at night in some circumstances. I would not rely on helicopter extraction from anywhere and would probably follow DotM's advice and stay near a serious medical facility. Briancon is the obvious one.

@Hurtle, it's the PGHM - I would expect the state picked the cost up.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
@gorilla,
Quote:

it's the PGHM - I would expect the state picked the cost up.
Wow.
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I don't know how extensive state-funded helicopter medicine in the UK is - the local 'flying doctor' seems to be largely voluntary funded. Certainly there is no expectation of heli treatment for a casualty in the UK - as in my experience, I guess it depends on the judgement of the 999 control. Right now, people with MIs are being told to get their nearest and dearest to drive them to hospital......
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@pam w, ... which reminds me, in the OP's position, not only would I stay near a hospital, I would also travel by car.
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@pam w, our local air ambulance is entirely funded by donations, including charity shops. Unfortunately the Pandemic has hit the income from those. https://www.ambucopter.org.uk/about/

Worth making donations to one's local service, if possible.

@TravelHappy78, I can't add to the advice which you have already received above, but add my welcome to snowHeads snowHead
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@MorningGory, Merseyside’s Police one is in the air at night regularly, primarily following stolen cars or burglars with heat cameras, not too many mountains to worry about though Toofy Grin
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For the OP, all the answers about staying in a decent sized town in the valley at night sounds the best solution to me.


@pam w, I am pretty sure all air ambulance services in UK are funded by donations etc. I don't think there is even lottery funding.

In my opinion it should be part of the ambulance service and government funded but that's another story.
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I'm in rural Somerset and our local Air Ambulance is nighttime capable - it was operating last night and the night before.
I think that the criteria locally are: is it likely to be critical and how long will it take County Ambulance to get to the scene.
Our air ambulance is a charity that does a lot of fund-raising locally. If only some money could be diverted from the "foreign aid budget" to such good causes, but I'm straying into politics!
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@geoffknight, I'd say police are emergency......
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gorilla wrote:
I've seen the PGHM land a helicopter in a glade in the dark. I was impressed. Might be a rare event but they will fly at night in some circumstances. I would not rely on helicopter extraction from anywhere and would probably follow DotM's advice and stay near a serious medical facility. Briancon is the obvious one.


I've known PGHM fly in any condition except very high wind (not possible in a helicopter). They are IMHO extremely impressive and quite intimidating to work with. In a white out for example I they would use me as a point of refrence and slowly advance towards me until the windscreen touched my helmet, then they could drop verticaly the last 1m-50m to land, then holding the rotors in slight inverse bias to push down as not to get blown around!
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@Idris, Shocked
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