Document Type


Subject Area(s)

Air Ambulances (organization & administration); British Columbia; Efficiency, Organizational; Emergency Medical Services; Geographic Information Systems; Models, Organizational; Organizational Case Studies; Rural Population


BACKGROUND: Increasing the range and scope of early activation/auto launch helicopter emergency medical services (HEMS) may alleviate unnecessary injury mortality that disproportionately affects rural populations. To date, attempts to develop a quantitative framework for the optimal location of HEMS facilities have been absent. METHODS: Our analysis used five years of critical care data from tertiary health care facilities, spatial data on origin of transport and accurate road travel time catchments for tertiary centres. A location optimization model was developed to identify where the expansion of HEMS would cover the greatest population among those currently underserved. The protocol was developed using geographic information systems (GIS) to measure populations, distances and accessibility to services. RESULTS: Our model determined Royal Inland Hospital (RIH) was the optimal site for an expanded HEMS - based on denominator population, distance to services and historical usage patterns. CONCLUSION: GIS based protocols for location of emergency medical resources can provide supportive evidence for allocation decisions - especially when resources are limited. In this study, we were able to demonstrate conclusively that a logical choice exists for location of additional HEMS. This protocol could be extended to location analysis for other emergency and health services.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


© 2009 Schuurman et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

APA Citation

Schuurman, N., Bell, N. J., L'Heureux, R., & Hameed, S. M. (2009). Modelling optimal location for pre-hospital Helicopter Emergency Medical Services. BMC Emergency Medicine, 9(6).

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