If you ever need help in an emergency, your life may depend on how much you weigh. That’s because emergency crews can’t airlift people to safety, via helicopter or plane, if they’re too heavy. In fact, last year at least 5,000 patients were told they could not be transported to a hospital because they either exceeded helicopter weight limits, or they were too big to fit through the aircraft doors. And while many of those patients eventually got rides in an ambulance, every state now reports at least one case where critically injured patients died while waiting for more help. That’s especially true for people who slip and fall in remote areas, like while they’re camping for example, because they’re in places an ambulance can’t get to.
Emergency crews say the problem is that all aircrafts have strict weight limits, which vary depending on the type of aircraft and the weather. Most planes and helicopters can handle patients weighing less than 250 pounds. But when people are heavier, or when the air’s hot and humid, pilots say it’s more dangerous to fly because aircraft can’t generate the “lift” they need to get off the ground and stay in the air. Obviously, that’s a big deal when you consider that every second counts in an emergency. And studies show that when patients ride to hospitals in a medical helicopter, they generally arrive twice as fast and are a third less likely to die compared to those who go by ambulance.
The good news? Some emergency services are upgrading their helicopters and planes, to handle patients weighing up to 650 pounds. But for those who are severely overweight, this report is even more reason to lose weight. Because in an emergency, your life may depend it.