Ambulance helicopter contribution to search and rescue in North Norway
Background: Search and rescue (SAR) operations constitute a significant proportion of Norwegian ambulance helicopter missions, and they may limit the service’s capacity for medical operations. We compared the relative contribution of the different helicopter resources using a common definition of SAR-operation in order to investigate how the SAR workload had changed over the last years. Methods: We searched the mission databases at the relevant SAR and helicopter emergency medical service (HEMS) bases and the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (North) for helicopter-supported SAR operations within the potential operation area of the Tromsø HEMS base in 2000–2010. We defined SAR operations as missions over land or sea within 10 nautical miles from the coast with an initial search phase, missions with use of rescue hoist or static rope, and avalanche operations. Results: There were 769 requests in 639 different SAR operations, and 600 missions were completed. The number increased during the study period, from 46 in 2000 to 77 in 2010. The Tromsø HEMS contributed with the highest number of missions and experienced the largest increase, from 10 % of the operations in 2000 to 50 % in 2010. Simple terrain and sea operations dominated, and avalanches accounted for as many as 12 % of all missions. The helicopter crews used static rope or rescue hoist in 141 operations. Discussion: We have described all helicopter supported SAR operations in our area by combining databases. The Tromsø HEMS service had taken over one half of the missions by 2010. Increased availability for SAR work is one potential explanation. Conclusions: The number of SAR missions increased during 2000-2010, and the Tromsø HEMS experienced the greatest increase in workload.
Published version. Source at http://doi.org/10.1186/s13049-016-0302-8. License CC BY-NC-SA 4.0.