NFPA 1917: Raising the Bar for Everybody
Dave Cole is vice president of sales and marketing for Iowa-based Life Line Emergency Vehicles, as well as a member of the committee developing the forthcoming NFPA 1917: Standard for Automotive Ambulances.
Where does the 1917 document stand today?
The committee will be meeting in October to review comments that have come back from the proposal [version of the standard] released in 2010. The final comment period ended at the end of August. We’ll review those comments and hope to have the document published around May of 2012 for implementation in January 2013.
What kinds of reaction to the proposed 1917 have you gotten as you talk to people in the industry?
I think feelings have been mixed. For the NFPA, what this process involved was incorporating its 1901 Standard for Automotive Fire Apparatus, as well as the KKK-A-1822 federal procurement specs, and the 25 AMD standards within that, into a document that is now called NFPA 1917. That document combines a bunch of things that certainly were important to the fire service, but maybe aren’t as practical to the EMS side of things. There are components that will raise the test standards and some of the requirements ambulance manufacturers have to build to, and those will be passed down as additional costs to users.
There’s a substantial difference in testing. The previous testing included static loads; the proposed new standard includes more dynamic crash-style testing. That’s good, and the end user certainly benefits from it, but it’s very expensive. The costs are a concern to many people. Also, there are many different varieties of people providing ambulance services, and it will raise the bar for all of them. All ambulances will have to meet the same testing requirements—people doing standard nonemergent transfers, along with the people responding to emergency calls.
Do you find safety is more on buyers’ minds these days, or is it still a subordinate factor to cost?
It is definitely on their radar. Over the last five years or so, buyers in general are more concerned about safety than they’ve ever been. We see a good percentage looking for designs or changes in what they currently do—to better anchor a piece of equipment, or put it in a crash-stable bracket, or anchor their bag in a compartment, or design an ambulance where they can treat the patient while seated and wearing a seat belt. It’s tough to make change happen, but it’s certainly much more common and thought about than it was.
What other elements of 1917 will enhance safety?
There are some components I think will be part of the final document that won’t necessarily be required, but may be options or recommendations. One could be seat belt indicators that make sure people are seated before the vehicle moves. Those were very much opposed in the comments and taken out as a requirement so people could still move about in the back of the ambulance when treating a patient. The black box devices are also probably going to be an option.
What’s your company doing in the realm of safety?
Life Line’s niche, if you will, is being able to provide value in terms of a change in design. Everybody does things their own way, but we were talking about things like dual switch panels almost eight years ago. So we feel like we helped bring about the idea of trying to stay seated and wear your seat belt in terms of the locations of particular switches, and in the concept of moving that standard action area over to the opposite side of the truck, and creating more of a work area that brings your equipment closer to you.
Even though it’s a very custom and customer-driven industry, there are many designs we’ve incorporated that have provided equipment at a closer reach, with a harness, with a seat forward facing, that still allows you to take care of patients and remain in a safely belted, seated position.