Administration and Leadership, Ambulances & Vehicle Ops, Columns, Commentary

Editor-in-Chief A.J. Heightman Gives Specs for his Ideal Ambulance

Issue 10 and Volume 39.

There’s a lot going on with ambulance design and specification. The National Fire Protection Agency and Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services (CAAS) are developing recommended standards to replace the antiquated KKK specifications the government stuck us with 30 years ago when it set what were thought to be state-of-the art ambulance design standards.

Somewhere along the way, states adopted the KKK specs and we were saddled with unsafe, side-facing, space-hogging squad benches; massive cabinets; and a walk-through space between the cab and patient compartment that few services use and few crew members can fit through.

CAAS will be seeking comments throughout the rest of 2014, so be ready to study its recommendations and provide feedback because we’ll surely be saddled with them for years to come.

I’ve taken some time to list what I’d like to see in my dream, crash-proof ambulance:

  • Adjustable forward-facing seats in the patient compartment, positioned to allow crews to remain seated during transport, as in Germany and Britain (see photos 1, 2 and 3);
  • The ability to rapidly and easily configure the fold-down curbside seats or space to accommodate a second patient on those rare occasions when it’s necessary, as in British Columbia (see photo 4);
  • Control panels and radio equipment that can be accessed and operated on both sides of the patient compartment, and space for a small desk and computer keyboard to be accessed, as in Oslo, Norway (see photos 5 and 6);
  • Jacks to allow ECG cables to be plugged into the wall on either side of the patient compartment so we’re not stuck with cables draped across the patient;
  • The elimination of the “action wall” where equipment and supplies can be left (unsecured) to serve as harmful missiles during sudden stops or crashes. Instead, I want cabinets to store items seldom needed during transport such as splints. I also want widows with blinds we can close when privacy is necessary (see photo 7);
  • Adjustable brackets to secure monitors, suction units, ventilators and other devices that can harm us if left loose, and small, lighted cabinets crews can reach from their seats (see photos 8 and 9);
  • An oxygen port/regulator at the rear doors so we can disconnect the O2 tubing from portable tanks and plug it into a convenient location instead of in front of the patient’s head, as in British Columbia (see photo 10);
  • The allowance for strong, safe, adjustable stretcher brackets and platforms such as in European ambulances so the patient position can be adjusted up, down, forward, backward, left and right instead of attendants having to unbuckle their safety belts to reach and provide care (see photo 11).