By Chad Brown
Vice President, Sales & Marketing
The talk of the industry for the past year and a half has been the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 1917, Standard for Automotive Ambulance, specifications. Additionally, talk has revolved around what impact those specifications will have on the industry as a whole, the impact on the manufacturers, and ultimately the impact on the individual departments and agencies. I will touch on all three impacts as I have seen and experienced during the past year and a half.
Regarding the impact on the emergency medical service (EMS) industry as a whole, we need to take a step back and ask what is or was the driver behind these new industry specifications. I believe the intent of the NFPA 1917 committee members, then and now, is to create a safer ambulance for patients and crew members. Having had numerous discussions with past and current members of the committee regarding some of the changes to the KKK-1822-Revision F specifications (the current specification that ambulance manufacturers build to), all the conversation and decisions revolved around safety. In the end, I believe we are all striving to make a safer ambulance for all.
One distinct difference in the EMS community is that there is legislation at the state level on what defines an ambulance. What I mean by this is that the definition of an ambulance in Ohio vs. any other state can be completely different. There are state EMS directors and agencies that inspect the ambulances as they come into the respective states, and every state has some varying degree of differences, whereas on the fire side of the business, fire engines and aerials are not regulated at the state level. As manufacturers, we build to a set of generalized standards using the General Services Administration (GSA) specification KKK-1822-Rev. F as a starting point and go from there with each state’s different regulations and definitions.
Specifically regarding NFPA 1917, there are many new items within that standard with which we must comply. Some of the more prevalent items include tire pressure monitoring, seat belt monitoring, cabinet testing (10-G pull test in all four directions of the cabinet), outside oxygen storage only compartment, cabinet weight capacity labeling, approach angle, brake over angle, and departure angle of 10 degrees.
However, I think the biggest change is that the department or agency will have to identify the overall payload needed for the vehicle. With the KKK-1822-Rev. F specifications, the manufacturer would tell the department or agency the overall remaining payload and have guidelines based on the chassis the department selected. With NFPA 1917, the department or agency will work with the sales representative to define the specific equipment it is putting into the vehicle. There are predetermined weights for equipment and personnel that will help you determine your remaining payload listed in NFPA 1917.
For a manufacturer that calculates front axle remaining payload, rear axle remaining payload, and overall remaining payload today, this is a rather big change in responsibility from the manufacturer communicating the remaining payload to end users. The department or agency is now responsible for communicating the desired payload to the manufacturer. I highly recommend that your committee fully investigate the weights of the equipment you choose to put into the ambulance and work with your sales representative to properly pick the right chassis with the appropriate gross vehicle weight rating for your department or agency.
Primary Care Position
Another significant change you will see or hear about from your sale representative will be a question your sales representative will ask: “What is your primary care position?” From an end user perspective and the manufacturer’s perspective, the answer is and will be absolutely paramount in the overall design and layout of the interior of your ambulance. This question refers to where your paramedic/emergency medical technician (EMT) will be seated and what you will designate as the primary seat location to treat your patient.
This answer will dictate the layout of the seats, the position of the cot, and the layout of some of your interior cabinetry. In NFPA 1917, there are specific measurements that must be met by the ambulance manufacturer to position the “primary care position” seat and the cot. These specific measurements could drastically change the current configuration and layout as you know it today. Seats that have been traditionally used may or may not comply with the standard. Different types and styles of seats again may have a significant impact on the design and layout of your interior.
One question I keep getting asked as a manufacturer is, “With all these changes to the ambulance, what financial impact will this have on the overall purchase price of my ambulance?” I answer that question with the following: NFPA 1917 specifications will increase the overall purchase price of your vehicle. However, when incorporating safety into the new ambulance, one has to evaluate the value these changes bring to each individual department and see if the benefits outweigh the costs.
I believe the changes outweigh the additional costs, and if we can save the life of a patient or a paramedic/EMT, then the new standard will have been successful.
CHAD BROWN is vice president of sales and marketing for Braun Industries. He focuses on the long-term growth of the company through sales and marketing, dealer development and recruitment, internal and external sales force management,and product branding. He also leads the regional sales operations and sales strategies for growth throughout Braun’s network of ambulance dealers.