Ambulance Safety Measures Prove Their Worth

Ambulance Safety Measures Prove Their Worth

By John Erich Jan 31, 2013

It’s been four years since a team of technical experts led by the EMS Safety Foundation set out to distill the safest aspects of ambulances from around the globe and combine them into a single vehicle that could be built and put on the road. It’s been three since those vehicles began rolling out, to much acclaim, in the U.S. (where they were fielded by the Dallas-area service CareFlite) and Oslo, Norway.

It’s time to ask: How have they performed?

“From a safety perspective, better than I expected,” says Jim Swartz, CareFlite’s president and CEO, whose fleet added two dozen Sprinters from Crestline. “We’ve had a couple of crashes, and they’ve protected our people inside. We’re currently preparing to order 10 more—does that tell you how we feel?”

Background

Designing the ambulances brought together experts from diverse but integral disciplines: automotive engineering, clinical EMS and patient transport, operational ergonomics and human factors, epidemiology and ambulance manufacturing. They looked at 179 different vehicle types and configurations, gauging each against technical data and principles of human biomechanics, vehicle dynamics and crashworthiness.

The resulting ambulances were built into OEM vans that had undergone stringent safety and crashworthiness testing and met automotive standards for occupant protection and crash safety performance. They featured original chassis, electronic safety systems such as electronic stability control and antilock brakes, and the full range of air bags, seat belt tensioners and other standard protective measures.

The patient compartment was designed around range-of-reach calculations and operational task analysis, with forward- and rear-facing seats and no squad bench. Portable equipment go-bags reduced the need for cabinetry and thus head-impact hazards. Equipment was secured, sharp edges avoided. The patient-loading height of 27 inches was optimal to minimize the risk of back strain; to the same end, heavy equipment was stored low in exterior compartments.

“It’s not rocket science,” Ronald Rolfsen, an advisor to the Oslo University Hospital ambulance service, told an American audience about these attributes in 2012. “It’s common sense.”

Rolfsen also touted more modest advances like placing lights and siren controls next to the steering wheel (research suggests it’s dangerous to drop your hand or reach too far to the side) and hands-free communications that prevent loose mics in the cabin. Oslo’s even gone so far as to balance the main equipment bags and portable oxygen tanks providers carry into scenes: Each weighs about 6.5 kg, keeping a person carrying them in balance. “Ergonomically,” said Rolfsen, “that’s very good.”

Beyond reducing many of the known threats of the ambulance environment, the rigs that resulted were also cheaper. They maintained good fuel efficiency, and for both services, their overall cost was less than for the previous designs used in purchase price alone, not counting fuel savings.

“And a lot of the feedback I get is, boy, our people like driving them,” adds Swartz. “They’re easier to drive than the boxes, and I think most people really understand their safety aspects. They are, in my mind, probably one of the safest ambulances you can buy, because they meet all the automotive testing standards.”

Continue Reading

Reference

1. Levick NR, Fitzgerald C, Swartz J, Lukianov G, Rolfsen R, Cooper A and the Innovation Consortium of the EMS Safety Foundation. Safety and Operational Innovation: Integrating Global Best Practice and Interdisciplinary Technical Expertise into Ambulance Design. Poster presentation, NAEMSP, 2012.

Paramedics and firefighters are taking part in weekly "Fitness with a Firefighter" workout classes to stay in shape for the job.
Campers were rescued by helicopters and boats when the river's water level rose 14 feet after 10 inches of rain fell overnight.
The Assistance to Firefighters Grant will be used to purchase 24 new breathing apparatus and other equipment.
Barrington Honor Ride and Run donates the funds to Project Hero, which assists veterans and emergency personnel dealing with trauma or injuries.
The 9-1-1 system was disrupted for one hour after a third-party vendor employee made an error during a network configuration.
The ESO EMS Index shows improvements across multiple metrics as overdose rates continue to rise.
Rescue crews are still working to find victims after a major bridge in Genoa collapsed yesterday.
The NG911 Clearinghouse emergency platform provides first responders the exact location of 9-1-1 callers.
An innovator in digital medical education, leader in cardiovascular conference management, and active paramedic will provide leadership across two core verticals.
Natasha Michelle Scott, 34, allegedly stole the vehicle from a hospital and led police on a 10-mile pursuit.
On-scene firefighters and bystanders jumped into action when Wayne Caldwell collapsed at a high school softball team.
Bob Bullard performs at monthly benefits to raise money for volunteer EMS agencies and fire departments.
Zachary Pennisi, 26, allegedly delayed notification of the woman's death, who may have died from a heroin overdose.
The funds will be used to hire 175 firefighters and paramedics, build 10 fire stations, and replace old fire trucks.
Mistie Rae Howell attacked two paramedics who were escorting her from an emergency department due to her rude behavior.