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In case you missed it, NFPA recently formed a committee to write standards for ambulance design. Why? Well, partly because they can. Partly because they were overwhelmingly successful in writing a consensus standard for fire apparatus design (NFPA 1901 - 2009 version), partly because 62% of fire U.S. fire services responses in 2007 were for medical aid calls (59% of fire departments provide EMS), and partly because the feds want out of the ambulance standard writing business. Firstly, as a member of the committee, I'm required to mention that every word you read here is my informal opinion, not the opinion of NFPA. So there.

The Committee, following the usual NFPA format, will ultimately consist of 30 members divided evenly into 10 representatives from manufacturers, 10 from users, and 10 from regulators. The operant words, "open" and "fair" define the NFPA process ( What happened at the first meeting? Well, imagine a couple dozen folks from the previously mentioned groups sitting in a room together - any room, anywhere. You could cut the tension with a knife, err - make that a chainsaw. So there were a few presentations: ambulance crash data (or lack thereof), history of federal government ambulance specifications, development process of the NFPA 1901 standard, resources available from NFPA, and the standards development process. Lunchtime.

First problem: define ambulance. Couldn't do it. Created a subcommittee. Next question: what's out there already? Probably the most popular are the federal KKK-A-1822 standard and the National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA) Ambulance Manufacturers Division (AMD) standard (2007 version). Why reinvent the wheel? Another subcommittee. Merge KKK and AMD with the NFPA 1901 format and let's see where the cards lie.

Not a bad start. In fact, the initial nervousness that some cockamamie standard was sure to be concocted that would blow the socks off the EMS world quite obviously was not on any member's radar. Phew! People actually seemed to leave reassured that consensus is within reach, maybe more within reach than it was for writing fire apparatus design standards. There were common goals amongst the players and now a sense of purpose that will lend itself to a deliberate path. The two subcommittees will report by the end of August, probably on a phone conference. Then the real work will begin. Timeline? Anyone's guess. Don't hold your breath. You'll be cyanotic.

Mike McEvoy
EMS Editor
Fire Engineering magazine
(and NFPA Ambulance Committee member)

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posted by Mike McEvoy
6/17/2009 11:04:00 PM

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