​HEMS Evacuations

Have you had the experience of witnessing a helicopter evacuation? What expectations do you have? Will it be packed with adrenaline and heroism, like something you have seen from movie or TV show? Yes, to some degree, however there are real dangers involved, especially to the untrained bystander who is willing to offer assistance and be part of the action.

Across the globe the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (HEMS) crew, consisting of a pilot, doctor and paramedic, know all too well it can go terribly wrong in an instant. Their stress is on safety. Safety for everyone present, from ambulance personnel and traffic officials to the patient and the bystanders, as well as themselves. Normally EMS personnel mobilise the heli and prepare the landing site, and can watch safely from a distance.

If you are in a situation where you can help, before you rush in, please serious note of the following general safety tips:
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Secure the Area

Block off the landing area from any travelling cars or pedestrians. Notify the helicopter crew of any hazardous powerlines, traffic lights, trees, barriers, buildings etc.

Clear the Landing Zone

Clear the landing site of any debris or loose articles, and take off any hats/sunglasses that may get caught in the rotorwash. Don’t chase or reach up to retrieve anything that blows away.

Be Visible from the Air

Make sure the landing zone (LZ) is in an open area that is visible from the air; the crew may not see you from behind the trees, buildings or other articles. Use flashing lights from the EMS vehicles; be careful when using flares that you don’t aim the flare at the approaching helicopter.

Protect Yourself

Protect yourself from dust, sand or flying debris while the helicopter is landing or taking off. Dust may get into your eyes and you may temporarily be unable to see.

Stand Where The Pilot Can See You

​Stay away from the tail of the helicopter. There are rotor blades that spin at such speed you cannot see them. It can be fatal to walk into them accidentally, so always stand where the pilot can see you.

Only Approach When...

​Only when the pilot or medical crew indicates with eye contact and a visual signal to do so, and crouch down when approaching for extra rotor clearance. Exit using the same path as your approach.

Stay Low On The Ground

​ If the helicopter is on uneven ground or on a slope, stay on the downslope for maximum rotor clearance.

Avoid Rotor Blades

​During start up and shut down of the helicopter, the blades may dip down. Don’t approach during start up and shut down.

Make your experience of a HEMS evacuation a “good” story to tell the kids.