NFPA Committee Examines Ambulance Standards

DALLAS, Texas --

"We received 1,785 comments. Several hundred, however, were copies addressing one or two issues," explained Larry Stewart, NFPA fire service specialist who is heading the project.

The 28 committee members and six others formed five task force groups, each addressing specific issues.

Stewart said by week's end, they will have reviewed 1,194 public proposals. The committee will either accept or reject them, and respond to the submitter.

One of the most controversial suggestions is that all ambulances contain a vehicle data recorder or black box that would track speed, acceleration and deceleration, braking events, seat belt use and other metrics of operation.

"We're hearing overwhelmingly people don't want those," Stewart said.

Another proposal drawing ire is one requiring the installation of a governor that would limit speed to 60 mph. "Many have said they don't want that."

And, others are objecting to requiring ambulances to have a tire pressure monitoring system. Stewart said while some are costly, another that attaches to the valve stems is much cheaper.

Other recommendations proposed by NFPA include requiring proper securing of equipment in the patient compartments, reflective markings on the rear of the ambulance, and interior designs that contain no sharp edges.

The committee that's comprised of ambulance manufacturers, private as well as independent and fire department providers, testing industry officials as well as NHTSA, NIOSH, NIST and others will vote on actions, and a consensus document will be established and presented, Stewart explained.

"The public will get a second bite," he said, adding that the process of establishing recommendations takes several years.

The committee will meet again late next fall to review the second round of proposals.

The final recommendations are set to be released by 2012.

"We've been really busy down here. We've got a lot of work to do in three days."