|PL Custom is offering the option of solar panels atop its ambulances to solve the problem of too many portable electronics using up too many amps.|
|Road Rescue’s Triangle of Safety feature allows everyone to be bucked in a three-point harness, face forward while moving and warns the driver when someone is not secured in their seat.|
|RediMedic marks Medtec’s entry into the more affordable ambulance market. Its price tag is half that of MedTec’s most expensive ambulance.|
With safety as the foremost objective of the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) project to create a national ambulance standard, ambulance manufacturers at the annual Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC) in Indianapolis displayed an array of safety features and even some “green” initiatives in an attempt to woo tight-fisted buyers.
Manasquan, N.J.-based PL Custom introduced its Solar Power System, panels mounted atop an ambulance to provide energy from the sun. The system is designed to power a 10-amp DC electrical load for eight hours without starting the vehicle, or connecting to a shoreline.
National Sales Manager Chad Newsome said it’s perfect for keeping portable electronics charged up without draining the battery and wasting fuel while idling or finding a plug to connect to. “Even if it’s not a bright, sunny day, I’m getting 10 to 12 amps of power,” Newsome said. “That gives me my power for my portable radio charger, my laptop, and my medication storage. It solves an age-old problem.”
The Solar Power System is made up of two 110-watt solar panels, measuring 2 feet by 5 feet, a solar regulator for system voltage and a deep cycle battery. The panels are placed on top of the ambulance without interfering with radio antennas or rooftop lettering.
Also from a green perspective, The PL Custom 2010 Titan ambulance has a composite floor, made up in part of recycled plastic. Newsome said it’s sound-deadening and practical at the same time.
PL Custom and many other manufacturers are experimenting with sliding/adjustable captain’s seats in place of more traditional bench seats, accompanied by seatbelts that allow as much range of motion as possible. As bench seats rarely see use for a second patient, the idea is to give paramedics and EMTs more options for movement, while staying in their seatbelts.
To accommodate departments that might need room for a second patient, most manufacturers are offering the option of at least one of the captain’s seats folding down in order to provide a flat surface for another patient.
Elkhart, Ind.-based Demers Ambulances showed off three adjustable captain’s chairs in its MX 160 and MX 170 lines with seatbelts that allow paramedics and EMTs nearly full movement in the back of the rig. But Demers National Sales Manager Thomas Goggan stressed seatbelts are no good if fire departments don’t start requiring their use.
“We think that since we save lives for a living, we are invincible. We’ve all done it, we’ve all not worn seatbelts. But it’s wrong,” Goggan said. “We train our people better, we teach them how to do a better job with their patients, we have better restraints to hold the cots in the ambulance. We’ve even invented better restraints to hold the patient to the cot. But we still take care of ourselves the same way we did 20, 30, 40 years ago.”
Road Rescue of Marion, S.C., is also focusing on seatbelt use with its “Triangle of Safety” system, similar to seatbelt monitoring systems on some fire apparatus. The Road Rescue Ultramedic model has three moveable captain’s seats, and a driver LED display panel that warns the driver with an audible alarm when the occupants are not buckled in. It also senses body weight, so personnel can’t try to trick the system by buckling the seatbelt without first sitting down.
Purifying The Air
Inside Sales Manager Mark Schwartzbauer said the system can be tied into a digital video recorder, “so if there is any kind of incident, it can be documented and held accountable for the person who was violating the rule.”
Road Rescue and SJC Industries Inc., which make Premiere, McCoy Miller and Marque Ambulances, are trying out a new system from an Atlanta-based company, activTek Health Solutions, to purify ambulance air. The filterless system uses photocatalytic ionization to reduce airborne and surface contaminants such as mold, viruses and bacteria.
Horton Emergency Vehicles of Grove City, Ohio, was back with its Horton Occupant Protection Safety (HOPS) airbag system. It combines airbag protection, three-point harnesses and a head-cushioning system to protect occupants if there is a rollover. It’s now standard with all models, and this year an airbag curtain has been added to the bench seat.
Horton Marketing Coordinator Martin Malloy said the company has representatives on the NFPA ambulance committee, and safety is definitely a big focus of deliberations. “Ideally we’d say put [the airbags] in the standards, but the other manufacturers are speaking up as well,” he said. “We are certainly pushing for crash testing.”
Wheeled Coach National Sales Manager Paul Holzapfel is another member of the NFPA ambulance committee. His company is also focusing on the safety and health of ambulance personnel this year, with increased side-impact crash testing, an air-conditioning system that filters out more than 99 percent of many airborne particles and a “SafePASS” door release system.
“When the doors are locked, and you get into a crash, as we did on purpose with our test vehicle, and the doors are destroyed, the handle gets bound up and won’t work,” he explained. “The SafePASS is an automatic release lever, and the occupants can get out of the vehicle.”
In addition to health and safety, many manufacturers at FDIC were keeping the economy in mind. The Medtec RediMedic has all the safety features and other perks you might expect from the Goshen, Ind.-based company. But it also has something you might not have expected from Medtec – a greatly reduced price tag.
Sales Manager Jeff Park said Medtec introduced the RediMedic at FDIC in response to customers who needed a value-priced ambulance without bells and whistles, but with the simplicity, ease of maintenance and quality which Medtec values. “We are known for premium products and we wanted to get into the entry-level segment, to go after our competitors who are very strong in it,” Park said. “Clean and simple is what you get.”
At least two companies, Charlotte, Mich.-based Spartan and Midvale, Ohio-based ASAP, featured smaller EMS transport vehicles that are not meant to replace larger ambulances. They are designed to be used in situations where larger vehicles are not necessary or practical. Spartan’s Non-Emergency Transport, called NEAT, caters to the transport market for the disabled. ASAP’s MedStat is an off-road rescue vehicle with a low center of gravity for rugged terrain. Both can handle a full-size cot and include attendant seating and storage compartments.
Other trends noted among ambulance manufacturers this year are: increased use of LED lighting in interiors; more rounded corners on tables and walls; and control panels and cabinets mounted lower so that occupants can reach them without removing seatbelts.