"They have to be on top of their game," Cochran said of the crew. Without a physician to make an assessment of a patient, they have do it themselves. If they incorrectly assess the situation, they can't function properly.
Cochran admits that there is "down time" in the trailer at the Knoxville Municipal Airport. Movies have been known to be watched. Working out of the Mercy One trailer in Knoxville is similar to working out of a fire station, in which personnel are there, ready to respond. If they get called out, they return when the call is complete to resume their assigned duties. It is rare for a flight crew to "just be sitting," according to Cochran.
While the crew gets a great deal of recognition and credit for saving people's lives, the crew is adamant that they cannot do it all alone. Without local rescue teams, police and fire officials, and hospital personnel, they could not do what they have been able to do.
"We're one spoke of many in a wheel," Cochran said. If local first responders were not there to start caring for someone in need, they could not continue it.
Tripp described the process the crew goes through each time they are called out. When they first arrive, they assess the scene to ensure the safety of the aircraft and everyone involved would be preserved with the landing.
If a patient is still trapped, they do a primary assessment and get information from local first responders. Mercy One crews do not have the equipment to extricate people from vehicles, that must be done by local teams.
When a patient is free, he or she is loaded onto a cot. They assess what will be needed before the patient can be loaded onto the helicopter and transported to the hospital. Tripp said the crew tries not to be on the scene for any more than 15 minutes, or longer than 20 minutes at the hospital.