A little after noon Tuesday dispatchers for the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Advanced Response team get a call. Minutes later, critical care nurses and paramedics hop on board.
"From the time we get a call to the time we are airborne, we average about seven minutes," said Kyle Madigan, the director of the DHART program.
A patient at a hospital in Colebrook, New Hampshire, needs to be transported to a bigger facility. The DHART helicopter is the fastest way.
"We will certainly take patients to Fletcher Allen up in Burlington, we got to Boston hospitals, we go over into Portland, we go over into New York state as well," Madigan said.
Over that last 20 years, DHART has transported nearly 25,000 patients, both hospital to hospital and directly from the scene of an accident-- a vital service for a rural area.
Dr. Norman Yanofsky saw the need in the 1980s and was on the team that helped land it here.
"We have very long transport times and a lot of the ambulance services, particularly back then, were basic services that could not provide advanced techniques," Yanofsky said. "I will never forget the first call because we had no idea when we would get the first call. We thought it might be two weeks to get the first call."
Kathy Cook was working the dispatch center when that first call came in.
"We went online at 7 a.m. and we were all just hanging out waiting for that first call and it came in at 8:03," Cook said. "After you got the first call under your belt it was fine, everybody was more comfortable. You could breathe."
Twenty years later, the DHART program includes two helicopters and two ground transports, all with life-saving critical care capabilities. It's something Yanofsky, an emergency room doctor, was reminded of while talking to a colleague at a recent conference.
"Somehow we got around to DHART and I said that I was involved in getting it started. And he said you guys saved my son's life. I was like whoa," Yanofsky said. "His 13-year-old son had had a bad head injury out in his backyard, and they were in the middle of nowhere and they ended up calling DHART. He had an epidural hematoma. Required immediate surgery and he made a complete recovery."
Thanks in part to a fast response that the region counts on in an emergency.
DHART's second helicopter is located in Manchester, New Hampshire. Pilots are on call 24 hours a day year-round.