A national surge in ambulance crashes has called for increased safety standards for these emergency vehicles. Due to the rise in injuries and fatalities that result from the crashes, The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Technical Committee on Ambulances is working on a draft, “NFPA 1917, Standard for Automotive Ambulances.”
Most recently, two were killed in an Illinois crash. A pickup truck slammed in to an ambulance from a side street, and the EMT and patient in the cab were thrown from the vehicle. Both the EMT and a passenger in the pickup truck died.
Currently, there are no requirements for a person to be belted in while riding in the cab. According to Mike McEvoy, PhD, RN, CCRN, REMT-P, a NFPA 1917 technical committee member, the new design won’t decrease the number of crashes, but it will help to improve ambulance restraints for passengers and patients.
“Speed causes crashes. We can’t make a design to change that,” says McEvoy. He suggests doing more to control speed. For example, manufacturers could install drive cameras that track speed or warn the driver. Drive cameras or other devices could affect behavioral factors, but not enough evidence has been found to prove this.
Still, a major change the NFTA committee is currently working toward are seats that can face the front or back of the ambulance, as opposed to the current sideways facing seats. The new standard will call for a swiveling seat, so providers can face either direction.
“There is a fair amount of science that shows having a swiveling seat will help. These new specifications are not going to change the number of crashes, but it will help the number of providers getting hurt inside the cabs from being tossed around or from equipment being tossed,” says McEvoy.
Within the next couple of weeks, the new NFTA design proposal draft will be released, with public comments due in December. In February, another draft will be released for public comments. As long as this project stays on track, the new design will be released in the summer of 2012, at which time the General Services Administration “Triple K” design will be abandoned.