BY ALAN M. PETRILLO
Ambulance manufacturers are responding to customer requests for specific innovations in terms of designs and equipment, both inside and outside of an ambulance’s patient box. In addition, makers are coming up with innovative ideas of their own to increase the safety and efficiency of the working crew as well as the patient.
Chad Newsome, national sales manager for PL Custom Body and Equipment Co. Inc., says PL Custom has been focused on meeting the requirements in Change Notice 10 (July 2017) to the Federal Specification for Star-of-Life Ambulances (KKK-A 1822(F). The Change Notice dealt with three areas, he says: ambulance modular body evaluation, interior cabinet integrity, and patient compartment structural integrity. “With our Medic in Mind design, we want to keep the crew seated and belted and all switches and equipment close at hand so the medic doesn’t have to get up and move around,” Newsome points out.
Newsome notes that PL Custom forms its countertops from a Corian-type material with radiused edges to mitigate any sharp points, and its interior cabinets are cut on a 45-degree angle so they don’t offer any strike points. “We also have been coating the back side of cabinets, the wheel wells inside the box, and the step wells with AudioGuard, a sound-deadening material,” he says. “We are making the inside of the truck very quiet because we want the crew to not be distracted by noise and be able to clearly hear any patient conversation.”
Chad Brown, vice president of sales and marketing for Braun Industries Inc., says Braun’s recent ambulance innovations include its MasterTech FleetConnect and its Total Life Care™ model. “For years, we’ve built numerous large trucks for neonatal and children’s critical care transport because of the big staff that works in them,” Brown says. “We started with one of our base Super Chief models and enlarged it. But, now we’ve developed a standard large size ambulance built on a Freightliner M2 crew cab chassis that we will launch in April 2019. The module length is 190 inches, and it has seating for six personnel and two patients.”
MasterTech FleetConnect is a connectivity platform designed specifically for ambulances, Brown points out, which lengthens a vehicle’s life, reduces unplanned downtime, and empowers remote maintenance and troubleshooting in real time. Created in partnership with IDEX Fire and Safety, MasterTech FleetConnect can monitor the chassis and engine network and also allows real-time monitoring and updates of the ambulance’s electrical system. MasterTech FleetConnect is in beta test trials with a couple of ambulance fleets, Brown says, and he expects the system to go into full production soon as an option on Braun models.
Rod Scearce, REV Group’s special project manager for iNTRAXX and ZERO RPM, says REV has an arrangement with Ferno to install its iNTRAXX Integrated Vehicle Component System™ in some REV ambulance models. REV’s ambulance group includes AEV, Horton, Frontline, Leader, Marque, McCoy Miller, Road Rescue, and Wheeled Coach. Scearce points out that iNTRAXX’s main focus is on keeping the crew seated in the patient box. Its three main benefits are safety, flexibility, and efficiency, he says. “Instead of cabinets, labeled pouches are attached to tracks so a medic doesn’t have to stand up and try to find a piece of equipment,” Scearce says.
The iNTRAXX modular system uses wall-mounted tracks that secure a series of SafeMount Equipment Mounts, SafeCab Storage Cabinets, and SafePak Supply Bags. The system is designed to secure loose equipment and utensils, which allows the medic to sit strapped and provide patient care from a secure, flexible environment, Scearce adds. Added benefits to using the iNTRAXX Integrated Vehicle Component System, he says, include ease and quickness in deconning the patient box and restocking the ambulance.
Steve Rowland, regional sales manager for USA South at Demers Ambulances USA Inc., says a large number of ambulances operating in the South and Southwestern states have difficulty keeping the interior of the rigs cool during high heat days. “We worked in concert with MedStar Mobile Healthcare in Fort Worth, Texas, to add a mobile electronic power source (MEPS) generator to a rig to supplement the vehicle’s standard compressor-condenser air-conditioning system,” Rowland says. “The MEPS takes the place of one alternator on the vehicle engine and provides the voltage to power a 110-volt air conditioner in an exterior compartment.”
Rowland adds that Demers also is meeting the latest changes to KKK that deal with cabinet retention of equipment. “Anything in a cabinet in the back of the truck has to be tested to hold the amount of contents the manufacturer says the cabinet can hold, and doors have to stay shut to pass the test,” he says. “We offer, as a standard option, a new latching system on our cabinets that allows one-handed operation to open the cabinet.”
Tommy Pugh, regional accounts manager for Excellance, says the company installs dual air-conditioning units in vehicles “to double the amount of cooling capacity, which is especially important in those areas of the country that experience very hot summers.” The two air-conditioning systems are exclusive of each other and work independently, Pugh points out, “and if one were to break down, the other one has the capacity to carry the entire air-conditioning needs of the ambulance.”
Scott Harrell, marketing supervisor for Frazer Ltd., says that because of recent KKK Change Notices, Frazer worked with Austin Hardware, which developed the Life Defender cabinets, “and, after testing, they far exceeded the recommended specifications.” Harrell says the front of the cabinet is fashioned from a Lexan material, while the balance of the cabinet is powder-coated aluminum. “We make shallow cabinets in response to crew members wanting to see their equipment up front and so they don’t have to reach far back into a cabinet to get something,” he notes.
Frazer also uses the Technimount System for securing equipment in the back of a rig. “The system is a universal base and bracket system that can be used to secure all types of equipment,” Harrell points out. “The bracket has passed third-party crash tests, is able to rotate 360 degrees, and with the click of a button can be released and carried to the stretcher and secured there on another bracket fastened to a retractable arm,” he says.
Harrell notes that Frazer also uses MEPS systems in its ambulances to allow a second option for independent power. “And, our air-conditioning systems are truly independent—not ducted systems but with vents in rear of the module,” he says. “The unit is mounted in the driver’s side rear compartment and sends air conditioning directly into the module.”
ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based journalist, the author of three novels and five nonfiction books, and a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment Editorial Advisory Board. He served 22 years with the Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including in the position of chief.