Missiles in the Ambulance

Some time ago… when I was on one of my EMT-I student ambulance ride-outs, I was observed in my usual practice of belting the cardiac monitor and the trauma bag to the cot.

"You dont have to do that," the EMT-Basic told me. The third rider was consigned to the rear-facing Captain's chair. From that vantage it is easy to predict where a 30 lb. medical bag and 17 lb. monitor would end up in a rollover -- or maybe just a quick stop.

"Easy for you to say," I said, strapping it down tighter.

The next challenge was to get the lap belt around my fat midsection and get it to fasten. It didn't always work. And, once the patient is on board, the belt prevented access to provide patient care.

While others may be more complacent, I applaud (what can now be called) the trend of deploying "safer" ambulances.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (DHS S&T), and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) developed design guidelines for ambulance patient compartments.

Those guidelines were recently used by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in updating NFPA 1917, “Standard for Automotive Ambulances” -- a voluntary consensus standard used by manufacturers designing ambulance components and complete vehicles. The revised NFPA 1917 was adopted by the association’s members in June 2015.

Some NFPA 1917 highlights:

  • Seat belt monitoring system --
    activates if someone isn't wearing a seat belt
  • tire pressure monitoring system
  • carbon monoxide detectors for
    gasoline-powered ambulances
  • Interior storage cabinet
    design and switches that are in reach of the provider while seat belted
  • Get your copy of
    NFPA 1917, 2016 Edition
    at nfpa.org