July 03, 2017

Seeing infra-red saves lives in the Bay of Plenty

When someone is lost in the Bay of Plenty bush or lake regions finding them quickly is the number one priority.

This life-saving work just got a little easier for the BayTrust Rescue Helicopter team which is using a grant from the Fonterra Grass Roots Fund to buy a hand-held infra-red imaging system that can be used to detect a missing person using their body heat.

“Having this valuable piece of equipment on board our rescue helicopter enhances the rapid response and agility of this service, particularly at night,” says BayTrust funding liaison co-ordinator Tessa Carpenter.

“It can pinpoint the missing person’s exact location, which means less time and fewer resources are used in the search, and we can connect families with their loved ones sooner.”

Last year 169 lives were saved in the Rotorua and Bay of Plenty region by the BayTrust Rescue Helicopter, which has two full-time pilots and six part-time volunteer crewmen.

It’s a free service, available 24/7, that responds to everything from road accidents to farming and forestry accidents, hunting, tramping and recreational accidents, urgent hospital transfers and search and rescue missions.

“Our aim is simple: to save lives,” says Tessa. “In a life or death situation, it is the speed of the helicopter that can make all the difference – the sooner treatment begins, the greater the chance of survival and a quicker and fuller recovery.”

It costs about $1.1 million a year, or about $8,000 per mission, to run the BayTrust Helicopter, and the local community must find more than half of this money.

“We are always seeking new avenues for funding and the Fonterra Grass Roots Fund is hugely important,” says Tessa. “It gives us the opportunity to apply for projects that arise or equipment we need throughout the year.”

Each year, the Fonterra Grass Roots Fund helps up to 300 groups in New Zealand, supporting community initiatives through grants to local emergency services charities, schools, and clubs.

“The Fonterra Grass Roots Fund is our way of saying thank you by supporting projects and ideas that make our communities safer,” says Fonterra’s Global Sponsorship Manager Kane Silcock.