Bundaberg’s LifeFlight helicopter crew can now rescue furry family members from floods thanks to an Animal Rescue Capsule (ARC).
In an Australian-first, LifeFlight engineering has created the purpose-built capsule to rescue, winch and transport pets securely from life-threatening situations.
The new equipment will be deployed to the Bundaberg crew in emergency scenarios.
This will be welcome news to the region’s pet owners with local crews engaged in several flood-related rescues over the past year.
Group Head of Operations Yvette Lutze, who helped develop the ARC, said it offered a fit-for purpose option for crews to airlift suitable pets.
“There’s nothing more challenging or upsetting for our crews and for us to have to have that conversation with someone,” Yvette said.
“They’ve just lost their house, they’ve lost everything, and now you’re asking them to leave their animal behind.
“Animals are part of our family, they’re a part of my family.
“What we wanted to do was to provide as many options as we possibly could to ensure that we could keep the pet owners and the pets together, when it is safe to do so.”
The aptly named ARC was invented after crews rescued a Noah's ark amount of pets as part of the multi-agency emergency response to catastrophic flood events across Queensland and Northern NSW in 2022.
Crews directly assisted more than 100 people, indirectly assisted many more and saved 22 dogs from flooded properties.
In the past and during the disasters from early 2022, equipment bags and child rescue capsules were often used to execute animal winch rescues but they were not the ideal, permanent solution.
While animal winch equipment already existed for military working dogs, the noises and altitude changes during a chopper mission can be extremely nerve-wracking for stressed, domestic pets.
The ARC can be re-used for back-to-back rescues, collapsed to make it compact for winching down to a scene, reinforced to accommodate pets up to 50kgs, and has drainage holes to allow water to escape when animals are scooped directly from flooded areas.
It also features ventilated mesh at the top so the animal inside can look directly up at their rescuer to minimise stress and anxiety.
“We engaged with several different experts along the way, including veterinary specialists as well as our own internal team such as equipment designers, aircrew officers [and] pilots, to make sure that we could do this safely,” Yvette said.
“The crews found that when they were able to say ‘just pop your dog in here’, it made the rest of the rescue a lot faster, and also too it de-stressed the people.
“They may have just lost their house but they could stay together with their furry friend.”