Tier 3 I.T. Solutions is committed to STARS Air Ambulance through their “Fund a Flight” program. Each year we make a financial contribution to cover the cost of one life-saving mission.

In February 2020 Jesse Hill and Jeffrey Buhr had a chance to talk more about STARS and the partnership with Tier 3 I.T. Solutions.

Here is the transcript:

Jesse Hill:
Hi everybody. And thanks for clicking play. My name is Jesse Hill and I’m the owner and president of Tier 3 I.T. Solutions. I’m here today with Jeff Buhr, the director of development for the Alberta North STARS Foundation, his role is to work with corporate partners to raise money, to keep these wonderful life saving helicopters in the sky. And I wanted to come and meet with him and chat with him a little bit today because stars is very near and dear to our hearts and part of our core corporate giving in our organization. So hello, thank you for taking the time for me.

Jeffrey Buhr:
Thanks for coming out today and, thank you to everyone at your organization for all the support you’ve provided.

Jesse Hill:
We were talking before the video was rolling about how important these helicopters are and the way that they came to be in Alberta is really an interesting story. So do you want to share just a quick little history about why our stars came from and where it’s headed?

Jeffrey Buhr:
Yeah, of course, STARS was started in 1985 by our founder, Dr. Greg Powell, and a few partners of his and the idea just came that he was tired of watching patients die, who weren’t located in our major city centers. That when people were, in rural areas greatly decreased their ability to survive certain things that they would have survived if they were closer to critical care. And so with that idea in mind he took that and ran with it. And that’s the seeds that it started from, a single helicopter that received community support right from the start. The Lions were a huge supporter of us to begin with and that has grown from there. From that single helicopter, single base in Calgary, we now have six bases in three provinces flying 11 helicopters on average of eight missions a day.

Jesse Hill:
Wow. And I love the story of stars because I think as it’s become this institutional thing that we’re used to, a lot of Albertans don’t realize how special it is that it was truly an innovative solution to a problem that Dr. Powell really launched on his own. I mean, with that initial group, it wasn’t like the government came in and jumped behind it and got it going. So it’s an amazing problem solving story.

Jeffrey Buhr:
Oh, for sure. And I mean, the, government’s been a great partner for us, but especially in Alberta, we do really depend on that community support. And even to this day, we’re still 80% funded through the community. So only 20% of our funding comes through government on an annual basis. Everything else is done through donors, through individuals, through corporations, through foundations, and it really makes us something special.

Jesse Hill:
Wow. So you mentioned an average of eight missions a day, so what is a mission? What does that mean?

Jeffrey Buhr:
So that means our, our crews going out. And well, I’m certainly not one of the people on those flights, I do speak to our pilot center, air medical crew frequently. And I will say that I don’t think that there is an average mission. That’s the reality of what we deal with. We truly are a flying critical care unit right there in the hall right there in the in the helicopter. And so that means we go where people are the sickest. And so our two kind of big types of missions, we fly our scene calls. And so that would be an accident on the roadway or a job site accident, or, something out in the field where we’re really going. And especially in, in the North, we might be the first responder in that case, we may be the only responder in that case. And then we also do what are called inter-facility transfers. And then those tend to be hospital to hospital. And so when somebody is having an issue at a rural facility that they aren’t quite able to provide the level of care needed we were able to get there fast and get that patient to a location where they can get the care that they require.

Jesse Hill:
So it’s amazing. And for those of you who don’t know, STARS is an acronym for Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society, right? Stars became an important part of Tier 3 I.T. Solutions’ history when one of our family friends had their son actually involved in a head-on motor vehicle collision just South of Leduc. And I mean, ultimately STARS responded. They transported him from that scene to the hospital and had he not receive that care, it’s almost certain that he would have passed and he would not have been able to grow up into the young man that he is today. I was looking on the other side of this helicopter on the tail wing, he has a sticker on there because he has raised, I think a million dollars is what it takes to go on there.
So amazing support. And for us, we, we just feel like you know, stars is one of those things that I never want to use. I never want to experience, but if somebody that I know needs it, I want it to be there. And with this funding model, particularly in Alberta and Saskatchewan, where it’s primarily corporate donors that are keeping well, and I mean, there’s also, you know, on calendar sales and all those types of things that happen. One of the things that made it really easy for us, or really meaningful for us was when they came up with their fund to flight program. And we’ve been involved for, I think about seven years now. And it’s really cool because every year what we do now is we send a check to STARS and they give us one of these plaques, and do you want to tell us what this is all about.

Jeffrey Buhr:
So I mean, the, the simple fact is that we can’t put a price on the service we provide. I mean, when we’re out when our crews are out doing their missions they’re saving people’s lives. They’re giving people hope. And on some of their darkest days, I would say you can’t put a price on that. However, we do know roughly what it costs every time we fly. And while I say that there’s no average mission, the fact is, is that we do have some statistics that give us a sense of what it costs to be out there. And so basically for every second this helicopter is in the air it costs about $1 and our average mission is about 90 minutes. And so that if you do the math that works out to about $5,400 every single time when you see one of these fly overhead.

Jeffrey Buhr:
And so that kind of gives us the idea to create the fund a flight program where we can actually tie peoples support to individual missions. So that’s what this plaque is represents here is it really does give us a tangible tool to show that. When we say the community supports saves lives we mean it, this plaque points to an incident that happened on August 17th, 2019 where we responded to a motor vehicle collision in Vegreville. And it was thanks to the support of, of Tier 3 I.T. Solutions that we were able to fund that flight and saved that person’s life.

Jesse Hill:
Yeah. And I love these because when I take this back to the office, I gather the team and I show them that although we come in and we fix network problems and support users on computer issues, we actually were able to make a difference in somebody’s life that day. It doesn’t tell us any personal information. But the fact is that they needed help and stars was able to go there that day, partly because of the support that we gave them, so really means a lot to us. What’s next for stars? What are the big initiatives that you’re pushing on right now?

Jeffrey Buhr:
Well, just before I talk about that, I do just want to mention, I mean, again, one of the reasons why I love these plaques is that we’ve talked about our crew. We’ve talked about what we call our ally. So for donors and supporters, and then we have what we call our VIP very important patients. And really, that’s the reason why all of us here do our jobs. And so again, these plaques really just tie that support to an individual VIP.

Jeffrey Buhr:
But then to answer your actual question on what comes next. So currently in addition to funding our day to day operations and like I said, we have exactly six bases in three provinces and each of those bases costs approximately $10 million a year. And so again, I’m doing the math on that significant amount of money. However one of our, our current challenges is the fact that we’ve had a very reliable, dependable fleet that we’ve used pretty much since the inception of stars. So that was 35 years ago.

Jesse Hill:
And this that’s one of these, right?

Jeffrey Buhr:
Yeah. It’s a great example of that. I don’t know the exact age of this one, but these were built in the 1980s, and they’re incredible machines. Our crew absolutely love them. But as one of our pilots likes to say it’s like comparing a car from the 1980s to a new one. And you know, the technology and some of the innovation isn’t necessarily there, these are legacy aircraft. Which means they’re no longer being made, which means parts are becoming harder and harder to find. And so we’re currently in the process of looking to replace our entire fleet. And so currently we have 11 helicopters both the BKF and also from AWS as well across our six spaces. And we’re replacing all of those with nine brand new ones.

Jesse Hill:
Is that one of those ones behind us? I think we have four or five helicopters in this hangar right now. This is the Edmonton base, so they do most of their maintenance here. And that one, it looks a lot different than this one, but there’s something even better coming down the pipe,

Jeffrey Buhr:
So everything just because of our hanger space, we do tend to do a lot of our heavy maintenance. And so we’re a bit of anomaly. You won’t normally get as many of our helicopters in one place. But that’s one of the special things about our Edmonton base. And so, our H145’s we’re currently in the process of fundraising for them, but just because of the lead time it takes to deliver them all. We actually have received our first three. So two are based in Calgary right now, and we’ve got one in Saskatoon as well. And so we’re expecting to have the rest of the fleet in place. I believe by the summer of 2022, that number changes a bit.

Jesse Hill:
Yeah. There’s lots of things that go into it, but the point is that they’ll be here in the next couple of years

Jeffrey Buhr:
And really take us into the to that next stage. And so they are actually kind of the improved version of the BKS. You’ve already very familiar with. We, you know, they’re, they’re tested, we know we know what they’re capable of, but this is just kind of the next generation bringing that new technology, that new innovation that that does not exist in the older aircraft.

Jesse Hill:
And there’s a totally different technology, but I mean, obviously we’re big believers in technology and innovation and, you know, efficiency, improvement, and those types of things. And so the one thing that I would just stress to you, if you’re watching this, you’re probably a client of ours. So thank you for your support of our business that allows us to support STARS. If you’re looking for a way to get your business more involved in some form of corporate sponsorship, I love the fund to fund a flight program because you get something, tangible and it makes a real difference in people’s lives. If you have any questions at all, please reach out to me. I can connect you with Jeff and we can get you in line to support this amazing cause. Thanks again for watching. Thank you, Jeff.