With a bold palette of red, white and blue, it’s hard to miss the newly-redesigned exterior that recently appeared on a handful of St. Charles County Ambulance District’s [SCCAD] advanced life support units. The new look made its debut in July on two ambulances, and will be phased into the District’s fleet of 30+ units over the next few years.
The design change comes following a recent Federal Emergency Management Agency [FEMA] study on Emergency Vehicle Visibility and Conspicuity, which among other findings suggested that agencies such as SCCAD consider increased use of reflective materials and contrasting colors on emergency vehicles.
The ambulances are wrapped nearly fully in a reflective vinyl, though some spots are left with a flat finish to provide recommended contrast. The result is greatly heightened visibility, particularly in low-light conditions.
“As we began the process of incorporating the FEMA recommendations into our design, we solicited feedback from several groups in our community,” said Chief Taz Meyer. “The project evolved significantly from initial concept to final product, and citizen input was invaluable to the process.”
Prior to the wraps, the advanced life support units were received from the manufacturer with white paint, then stickered with some reflective striping, lettering and logo. The cost to fully wrap one of the District’s larger, modular ambulances is approximately $4,900, a little less than double the cost of stickering.
“Though there is an increased cost associated with the full-wrap technology, we felt it was an important safety upgrade to make. The change impacts not only our patients and Paramedics, but our community at large,” said Meyer.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s office of EMS, vehicle crashes involving ambulances are not at all uncommon – an estimated 4,500 crashes occur each year in the United States, 34 percent of which result in injuries.
Though the increased reflectivity is a positive step, Meyer cautions that there is no substitute for safe, attentive driving. Maintaining a safe speed and avoiding distractions such as cell phones greatly reduce the risk of motor vehicle accidents not just when emergency vehicles are concerned, but in general.
The new design will be phased into the fleet of ambulances over the next several years according to the District’s established maintenance and replacement program.