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German Helicopter Emergency Medical System

In international comparison, the federal republic of Germany has a very efficient and well-organized emergency medical services (="EMS") system. It guarantees that professional help is quickly available in any case of accident or sickness that might require immediate medical treatment. The main job of the EMS units is to provide medical aid at the scene of accident and a safe patient transport to a suitable hospital afterwards.

HEMS mission with helicopter, mountain rescue and ambulance

HEMS mission with helicopter, mountain rescue and ambulance
photo: Patrick Permien

The mission

Generally spoken, one can differentiate so-called "primary missions" from "secondary missions". Those are two different kinds of urgent medical assistance: Most of the missions that German EMS helicopters are called for are urgent flights to a scene of accident. Their major aim is to bring the medical staff there as soon as possible. Frequently the helicopter has to execute another important task when the medical staff thinks the patient should be brought to hospital. In those cases the pilot brings the medical crew members and the/ a patient to a suitable hospital quickly and safely. Otherwise a patient can also be taken to hospital by an ambulance.

EMS helicopter on a hospital rooftop helipad

EMS helicopter on a hospital rooftop helipad
photo: Team "Christoph 5"

Non-primary tasks

On the other hand there is also a large amount of of urgent patient transport flights from one hospital to another, which seems to be better for the patient 's recovery process. Those intensive care transport flights from one hospital to another form the second kind of usual reasons for HEMS missions.
Last of all the EMS helicopters are able to support other kinds of missions: For example, they can search for persons. As well they are capable of transferring blood donations for transfusions or organs which shall be transplanted to a hospital which requested them.


All these EMS-helicopters have a crew that consists at least of the following three persons: One pilot to fly the helicopter and ensure the helicopter 's safety, a paramedic and one doctor. Some helicopters additionally have a second pilot or co-pilot on board - or a technical assistant whose job is to support the pilot, as well. All helicopter staff members know their jobs for many years and have to continue their studies and professions regularly.

Joint forces in a winter rescue mission

Joint forces in a winter rescue mission
photo: ADAC Presse

In Germany it has turned out to be a very good idea to support the EMS system with helicopters. The German air-EMS system is probably one of the best in the world. Every day help to ensure the safety of the people in Germany. Fly for life - or, as the SAR crew members say: That others may live!


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