Project Lighthouse

Supporting citizen bystanders during and after medical emergencies

In Denmark, there are more than 200,000 critical accidents and emergencies (‘A’ calls’) each year, that require the immediate dispatch of an ambulance. On average, for every patient involved, there are two bystanders at the emergency scene - these people can be family, friends, acquaintances or even strangers.

“We have 5,000 cardiac arrests in Denmark each year. There’s always someone watching.”
- Paramedic

Bystanders play a critical role prior to the ambulance arriving – they call for help, they help coordinate the scene and also provide lifesaving interventions – yet, no one is formally responsible for their health and well-being after the emergency is over and the ambulance leaves.

Witnessing or intervening in an emergency can be a traumatic experience. If bystanders don’t have the support or tools to process the event effectively, it can lead to mental health consequences in the future. Of the bystanders who experience a life-threatening emergency, 1 in 4 develop some psychological symptoms - they might have flashbacks, trouble sleeping or more emotional highs and lows.

“Afterwards I was lying in my bed and crying, I didn’t understand what happened. Could I have done anything differently in some way? I still feel like it’s my fault he died.”
- Bystander

At Falck, we believe it is important to support everyone involved in an emergency. In a collaborative project involving psychologists, paramedics, service designers, and former bystanders, Falck has developed a new solution that protocolises bystander support and better protects their mental health after an emergency. The solution provides two touchpoints:

  • Navigation Card: An instructional card that is handed out to bystanders by a paramedic. The card includes simple advice for what to do after an emergency, and information about how to sign up for a follow-up call with a Falck psychologist.
  • Follow-Up Call: A short conversation with a psychologist, that aims to normalise emotional, physical & mental reactions, and provides guidance to further help if recovery is not progressing.

“I had my talk with the psychologist. I did not have any expectations - it was my first time talking to a psychologist. It helped a lot - she could help me put words to it. That it is natural to react. I think it is a great initiative.”

- Esben, Bystander

For 10 weeks between September and November 2023, Falck ran a pilot test of the service in collaboration with Region Zealand, engaging 11 ambulance stations in the region. After the pilot, bystanders, psychologists, and paramedics were interviewed about their experience, and all confirmed that Project Lighthouse creates value. The service helps normalise bystanders’ feelings, thoughts, and emotions, and provides recognition in a difficult moment. The service is also meaningful and valuable for paramedics, enabling them to care for even more people. We are currently working on scaling the service to support more bystanders.

If you have experienced the solutions and you need more guidance or have more questions you can reach out at You can also learn more about the background research and overall process here and about Falck's innovation approach here.

Data Source: Representative survey on life threatening emergencies – fielded by Megafon, 2021

Contact us

Head of Global Innovation

Eilidh Dickson

Head of Global Innovation

Send email

Explore further