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The NFPA 1917 Standard for Automotive Ambulances draft closed for comment in December 2010 and the Committee met in Dallas during February 2011 to review the 1,785 comments received. Many comments and proposals for change were duplicative: 133 received on Vehicle Data Recorders (VDRs), 136 on maximum top speed of 72 MPH, 131 on estimated in-service vehicle weight, 132 on visual indicators of tire pressure and 132 on seat belt indicators. Task groups examined each comment and recommended approval, modification, or rejection, providing rationale for their actions. Committee members will, over the next few weeks, be balloted for final decisions on each comment. NFPA will publish a report on comments (ROC) on February 24, 2012 and, absent significant objections by NFPA members, the standard will become final on May 29, 2012. If approved as discussed in Dallas, the standard will apply to new ambulances contracted for on or after January 1, 2013.

So what might you expect to see in the February ROC? Well, it depends on how committee members vote, but I can share with you (being a committee member) some discussion from the Dallas meetings. Let me start with the most commented and controversial areas. VDRs were recommended for elimination from the standard; current technology falls short of that desired. Instead, a statement will be included in the annex outlining suggested safety practices and monitors. The annex, for those unfamiliar with NFPA standards, is attached to a standard to enhance, clarify or provide additional information, but not part of the standard itself (i.e., not required). The maximum top speed will likely be increased to 77 MPH. The formula for estimated in-service vehicle weight will be readjusted, primarily by recognizing 171 pounds as a reasonable weight for each occupant. Some means of visual tire pressure monitoring will likely remain in the standard. Seat belt warning systems are probably going to disappear from the standard; the committee felt that such an audible and visual warning would distract providers during patient care.

Other items likely to be reflected in the ROC will include striping requirements consistent with NFPA 1901 and 1906; deleting the requirement for a CO detector; changes to allow on-board liquid oxygen; allowing mounted portable suction in lieu of permanently installed suction; text will be added to prohibit backup alarm override switches; locks will no longer need to be keyed alike; the minimum volume of storage provided in the interior compartment will likely be eliminated; and finally, language will be added clarifying requirements for storage cabinets and brackets including testing of the amount of force cabinets or brackets need to be able to sustain.

These are some highlights, many more changes and deletions will be reflected in the final ROC. Look for it next February. One other news of note comes from the NFPA Research Foundation. The Foundation announced recently that it will support future research on ambulance crashes. This is particularly good news as the 1917 Committee realized very early in their deliberations that no comprehensive database on ambulance crashes exists. Data on ambulance crashes, the injuries sustained and damage done to vehicles and equipment are invaluable for development and future refinement of the NFPA 1917 standard. Stay tuned.

Mike McEvoy
FireEMS Editor
NFPA 1917 Committee Member

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Comment by THOMAS D HORNE on April 11, 2011 at 9:11pm

"text will be added to prohibit backup alarm override switches"  I would hope that you could include some sort of exception on this for a backup alarm that could be disabled from a push button on the rear exterior of the unit.  That push button could be the actuator for a self sealing relay that is powered from the backup alarm circuit.  The effect of that is to reset the control circuit to on each time the transmission is shifted out of reverse.   Since that button could only be used by a backup spotter that was on the ground I cannot see the harm in not having a backup alarm going when backing into quarters at 0dark30.  Why wake the neighbors and the rest of the station staff?

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Tom Horne

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