A - Z 2020 Switzerland - Rega (Air Rescue Service)

Photo Credit: flyguler

Welcome back to my Swiss themed A - Z challenge. As announced in my Alps post, today I'll be talking about Rega, our Air Rescue Service. 

A non-profit organization founded in 1952, and mainly financed by 3.5 private patrons, its purpose is to help people in distress and in need of assistance in accordance with the principles of the Red Cross.

The phone number is 1414. You should not hesitate to call if you require immediate assistance by a rescue helicopter if 
  • you are injured and located in rough terrain that is inaccessible for an ambulance
  • immediate transport to a hospital is necessary in the case of heart attack, stroke, back injury, severe burns and the like
  • there was an avalanche accident
By the way, better than to call in a case of an emergency, download the Rega App as a means of being prepared for the worst, but hoping for the best: 

The app alerts the Rega Operations Center, and your coordinates are automatically transmitted. This can save valuable time in an emergency. 

The free Rega app can be used both in Switzerland and abroad. In addition to the position coordinates, the personal details stored in the Rega app are transmitted to Rega and a phone connection is set up with the Operations Center. After speaking with the person raising the alarm, Rega will initiate a rescue operation.

In order for the app’s location feature to work, the GPS signal must be activated in the smartphone settings. The Rega app can only be used to raise the alarm if there is adequate mobile network coverage.

Throughout Switzerland twelve Rega helicopter bases are located strategically, allowing the crew to reach any accident site within 15 minutes. This excludes the canton of Valais because they have their own service, Air Zermatt. 
The crew consists in a pilot, a flight physician and a paramedic. Their job is a challenging one. No mission is alike. Weather and wind conditions complicate the detection of the accident site, the landing and the recovery of the patient. Sometimes the poor accident casualty needs to be hoisted into the chopper. Here's an example:

The Swiss Air Force conducts an annual air display that is open to the public. My friend Markus, who kindly let me use his fabulous chopper pictures, attended last year's event in the Bernese Alps. 

The show features F/A-18 Hornet and F-5 Tiger II combat aircraft, PC-21 trainer aircraft, Patrouille Suisse, military helicopters, rescue and fire extinguishing operations and parascout missions.

Even though this is an event executed by the Army, Rega is an important element. They conducted a mountain rescue mission including a hoisting manoeuvre.

Photo Credit: flyguler

What looks like an exciting demonstration, for Rega and its crew this is everyday business. 

In 2018 they flew almost 17,000 missions and rescued more than 11,000 patients.

A few years ago a guy who worked for a corporate client of ours, benefitted from 
Rega's services. Patrik was an amateur geologist who liked to spend days or weekends in the mountains, looking for crystals and minerals. Usually he was out and about with a buddy.

On that particular day, several years ago, his friend didn't feel well and went home mid-day, so Patrik was on his own. He had been doing this for a long time, and he was proceeding carefully and responsibly, and yet, a rockslide happened, and the falling rocks buried him alive. Barely alive. 

He was later going to be diagnosed with a smashed ribcage, a paralized side of his face and about 50 fractured bones.

Lying in an escarpment, covered in rocks, he got to thinking. It was Sunday afternoon, and it was the Pentecost weekend, meaning Monday was an official day off, meaning nobody would notice he was missing until Tuesday morning when he was supposed to be back at work. 

His backpack that included food, water, a warm jacket and his mobile phone, was lying nearby - but he couldn't move to reach it. 

Two nights in the mountains at about 2,000 meters (=6,500 feet) is no picnic. Temperatures were dropping near, even below freezing point, and as if that wasn't cold enough, blood loss contributed even more to his hypothermia. 

Desire to live is a powerful thing, though. Patrik's knowledge of the terrain and science helped him to determine what time it was, even in the middle of the night. He kept counting the seconds and the minutes, forcing him to stay awake because he knew, once he fell asleep, this was it.

Finally, on Tuesday morning, he heard the most wonderful sound of a helicopter approaching - but then it disappeared again. The rocks that covered him were a perfect camouflage, so it took some time for his red angels to find him. Red angels is what he called the Rega crew because of the iconic red chopper. Later he processed his trauma in an identically named book. 

I hope you enjoyed this post. While it's good to know that skilled and courageous people will be there o rescue you, I do hope you don't want to experience it anytime soon.

What can you do? 
  • Become a Rega patron for CHF 30 a year. It may save your life - or other people's. 
  • Save the phone number 1414 to your phone.
  • Download the Rega App.

Be safe and be back tomorrow for the letter S, which will be all about airlines Swiss and Swissair.


  1. Wow, beautiful and happy ending story! People like Rega staff are heroes, as the doctors are now.

    R is for Rayures

  2. This sorta work requires a lot of courage and not all would be interested. #Salute
    Particularly this time between the Covid outbreak I have come to realize what important service a rescue worker or a health worker does. Lovely post. Thank you.
    -- rightpurchasing.com

    Do check out if my blog with the theme “Blog monetization” interests you:

  3. 17,000 missions in one year - that is amazing. Clearly, they are providing critical services. Weekends In Maine

  4. This is such an important and essential service. Patrik showed great presence of mind and did not panic. That is true courage. In NZ we have a similar service called the Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service.

    Suzy Someday Somewhere Letter R


Post a Comment

Thank you for your comment. It will be visible as soon as I had a chance to verify that you are not an anonymous user and/or a spammer.