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Maybe you are going to give a talk or write a paper about the air ambulance. If so, here is some information that you might find useful.

What is an air ambulance used for?
You can see it in the air following a major or serious accident or disaster: a yellow helicopter. That’s the air ambulance, also known as a trauma helicopter. The word ‘trauma’ comes from the Greek and means ‘wound’. The air ambulance is used to save lives. With a helicopter the pilot can fly very quickly to the place where a doctor is needed. Another advantage of helicopters is that they are able to land and lift off vertically, close to the scene of the accident. The helicopter also has special equipment and medicines on board.

All the air ambulances in the Netherlands bear the same name: Lifeliner. These helicopters are of the type EC 135, which are made in the Eurocopter factory in Germany. They seat three people, while the injured person can remain lying down.

What are the differences between an air ambulance and a road ambulance?
A road ambulance accommodates a driver and a nurse. Their main task is to care for the injured person to the best of their ability and get him or her as quickly as possible to a hospital. The hospital doctors can then start the medical treatment.

The crew of an air ambulance comprises a pilot, a nurse and a doctor. Together they form the mobile medical team (MMT).

The MMT physician is not an ordinary family doctor but a medical specialist. Medical specialists are doctors that work in a hospital. They have a lot more experience of serious injuries than a family doctor. When a medical specialist attends the scene of a serious injury, he or she can help the injured person straight away, for instance by anaesthetising the casualty. This relieves the injured person’s pain. The specialist can also insert a tube so that the casualty can breathe more easily. Without immediate help at the scene of the accident the injured person could die.

Why is the air ambulance so handy?
The air ambulance can fly at around 240 kilometres an hour. A helicopter has no problem with traffic jams an there aren’t any traffic lights in the air either. So an air ambulance can get to an accident three times faster than a road ambulance. A single physician can then give assistance in a large area. Research has shown that the first hour after an accident is very important for an injured person’s chances of survival. It is known as the ‘golden hour’. In that hour the physician must give good assistance straight away. The mobile medical team of the air ambulance is able to give that assistance in double-quick time. So the treatment of the injured person starts at the scene of the accident.

Emergency number 112
In the event of a serious accident or disaster it is important to call the emergency number 112 immediately. The people who answer the 112 calls decide whether it is necessary to send an air ambulance to the scene of the accident. There are special rules for this.

In action within two minutes
If an air ambulance is needed, the mobile medical team (the pilot, the physician and the nurse) of the nearest available helicopter goes into action. The helicopter lifts off within two minutes of the notification of the accident. Such speed is possible because the members of the MMT sit in a separate room close to the helicopter. Often the pilot hears only during the flight where he has to go. When the helicopter arrives at the scene of the accident, the pilot looks for a good place to land. The nurse has had special training to make it easier for the pilot to fly the helicopter. This can sometimes be very difficult: in a city centre there could be all sorts of things in the way. It is essential that the landing place is free, so that the MMT can do its work as effectively as possible. For their own safety, other emergency services, such as police, fire service and ambulance, and bystanders must stay at least 25 metres away from the helicopter. The pilot is responsible for the helicopter when the MMT is at the scene of the accident. After landing, the physician and nurse do everything they can to care for the injured person.

Teamwork between helicopter and ambulance
An ambulance is always present at the scene of the accident too. If the helicopter’s MMT physician has treated the casualty, the ambulance generally takes the casualty to the nearest hospital. This is because the ambulance has more room than the helicopter.

Because of the limited space in the helicopter every centimetre on the inside is utilised. The aircraft is full of special equipment that can save the life of the patient. It looks like a flying hospital. Sometimes the MMT physician goes with the casualty in the ambulance. He or she can then operate the complicated equipment that keeps the injured person alive. The helicopter also flies to the hospital to pick the physican up. The team is then complete once more and is ready for the next call-out. If the ambulance cannot get the casualty to the hospital quickly enough, he or she travels in the helicopter.

For what reasons is the air ambulance called out?
The most common accidents for which the air ambulance is called out are road traffic accidents (70%). The rest include industrial accidents (often involving machines), people falling from scaffolds or roofs, drownings, stabbings and shootings.

A brief history
The first air ambulance of ANWB Medical Air Assistance took off from the roof of the VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam in 1995. A lot has changed since that time. Nowadays the air ambulances transport the mobile medical teams of the VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam, the Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam, the St Radboud University Medical Centre in Nijmegen and the Groningen University Medical Centre.

ANWB Medical Air Assistance operates the flights for these four trauma centres. The helicopters of Rotterdam and Nijmegen are based at Rotterdam Airport and Volkel respectively (airports in the vicinity). In Groningen and Amsterdam the helicopter can land on and lift off from the hospital helipad.

Since April 2011 the air ambulanes are allowed to fly 24 hours a day throughout the Netherlands. As they can now fly at night, the mobile medical teams have learnt how to use special night vision goggles. These are fastened to their helmet and can be flipped down. Using these night vision goggles it is easier to land in the dark. The air ambulances have been well equiiped for night-time operations.

You can see from the map that air ambulances can give assistance to people in the whole of the Netherlands.