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.

Munroe Regional Medical Center has launched a $26 million construction project to expand the emergency department and reduce wait times.
Dispatchers reported 67% percent of 9-1-1 calls from the hospital were unnecessary, noting the most calls received in a day was 17.
Daemen College Rescue Squad will now be dispatched to 9-1-1 calls made on campus.
Firefighters and law enforcement personnel will battle it out in an American Red Cross blood drive to see who can gather more blood donors.
In response to having the highest number of fatal overdoses in the state, Montour County first responders and community members participated in a naloxone training session.
Patients can't know what's life-threatening, the organization maintains.
EMT Mousa Chaban, 31, died from his injuries after his colleague fell asleep at the wheel and collided with another vehicle after running a red light.
Louisiana's unclear telemedicine regulations are being reevaluated to ensure patients continue receiving high quality care.
Detective Randy Knight's business, A Safe Knight Inc., offers free classes to groups on how to respond to mass casualty incidents.
For the first time in its 100-year history, Fillmore Fire Department hired three paid, full-time firefighters not working in management positions.
EMS providers responded to a total of 1,100 overdose calls last year.
Amber Williams, 24, gave her 17-month-old son cocaine and put him into a cold bath after he consumed the opiates, requiring five doses of Narcan from firefighters to revive him.
Onslow County EMS reported the frequent use of Narcan last year cost the agency $19,000.
Tonya Johnson, 43, was hit and killed by a pickup truck when she exited her vehicle on a highway.
Hazleton firefighters gathered used equipment and a truck from local companies to donate to Santo Domingo's fire department.