BLM California News.bytes 
News.bytes Extra, issue 561

BLM Officials Urge Visitors to Steer Clear of Helicopter Landing Zones

Officials at the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area noticed a disturbing trend over the Thanksgiving  weekend.  Visitors were either ignoring or unaware of the hazards associated with helicopter landing zones. (text continues below)

four people carry a stretcher to a waiting helicopter
Helicopter landing zones are dangerous places which are typically secured by staff, and sometimes helpful visitors.  This landing zone was breached twice by errant riders over the Thanksgiving Holiday. 

Helicopters are often called to assist in the evacuation of seriously injured visitors.  When this happens, a landing zone is secured by staff, and occasionally helpful visitors assist.  Marked BLM or other official vehicles are positioned around the landing zone as an indication that the area is now temporarily off-limits to through traffic.  For the helicopter to land, the landing area needs to be free of obstructions, and this includes off-highway vehicle (OHV) traffic.  When landing zones are breached by OHV riders, the helicopter may have to abort, delaying transportation.  This delay may make the difference in life or death for the patient.

The landing zone is secured the entire time the helicopter is on the ground, and visitors are required to stay out of it.  As helicopters sometimes land and leave the engine running, existing hazards include the spinning rotors (overhead and tail), which are difficult to see, and collisions with the aircraft. 
Visitors are asked to remain vigilant to their surroundings while recreating, and respect personnel who are redirecting traffic around the landing zone. Increasing public safety through awareness is paramount to fulfilling objectives of BLM California’s Strategic Framework.

For more information on the Imperial Sand Dunes, please call 760-337-4400, or visit our web page at www.blm.gov/ca/isdra, or www.facebook.com/BLMImperialSandDunes.

a helicopter flies high over OHVs in the sand dunes
Visitors are urged to be aware of their surroundings and what’s happening, and stay out and away from landing zones  -on approach, while on the ground, and during lift-off.  Photos:  BLM/J.Szalwinski

- Joya Szalwinski, Interpretive Park Ranger, BLM El Centro Field Office/Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area (December, 2012)

BLM California News.bytes, issue 561 -- To subscribe to News.bytes, send an e-mail to: mailto:Join-Newsbytes@List.ca.blm.gov OR visit our News.bytes subscription page.