Generally, when a person needs immediate medical attention they are transported via an ambulance to the nearest hospital. However, there are times when riding in an emergency vehicle is ideal and the patient is instead transported via an air ambulance — which is typically a helicopter, and in rare cases a small airplane. When is an air ambulance typically used? Here are a few of the circumstances:
1. A regular ambulance is not fast enough
If a patient is in really bad condition, such as if they were just in a very traumatic car accident and have multiple fractures or severed limbs, an ambulance may not get them to the hospital fast enough for the life-saving surgery that they need. An air ambulance is faster since it does not have to weave through traffic and can buzz through the air at several hundred miles per hour. The time saved by calling an air ambulance might be the difference between life and death.
2. An ambulance cannot access the area where the injured person is
If someone is injured in a really remote area, such as at the bottom of a ravine in the desert, or at the top of a mountain they were climbing, a traditional ambulance may not be able to get close enough to the person to pick them up. A helicopter can drop right in, even when the terrain is really treacherous, allowing the person to get medical attention much faster.
3. The person may have a spinal cord injury
If there is a possibility that the person has injured their spine, then the emergency medical personnel may not want to transport them in a traditional ambulance. The bumping and jostling that results if the ambulance hits a pothole or takes a corner too sharp could cause further injury to the spine and potentially lead to paralysis. Riding in a helicopter is much smoother, so it is a safer choice for anyone with a possible spinal cord injury.
4. The patient needs to go to a far-away hospital
If the patient has a serious condition that the closest hospitals are not able to handle, and they need to go to a hospital that is an hour or more away by car, the emergency medical personnel may decide to take them via air ambulance instead. Not only does this get the patient to the hospital sooner, but it saves the ambulance drivers from having to drive so far -- and it frees up the vehicle ambulance for other emergencies.