Fiat Ambulance Emergency Lights and Sirens
Concerns have been raised about the visual and audible warnings that have been included in the specification for the new Fiat ambulance, in particular relating to the type of emergency blue lights and the siren which is manufactured by a different company to the one installed on the Mercedes ambulances.
When reviewing all feedback and comments that are raised in respect of the Fiat ambulances, it is essential that we recognise and understand the rationale behind the changes which have been made to the specification of our emergency ambulances. When the new ambulance was being designed, the intention was to move forward with a blank canvas rather than attempt to upgrade or improve an out dated design that has not greatly improved in 20 years. This change of tack has included changes of base chassis, total revamp of the interior incorporating more safety features and including items manufactured by different companies in order to achieve the required outcome.
During the three–year design and development stages, input was sought from a wide section of employees ranging from clinicians to cleaners, AFAs to technicians, and input was also provided by employees of varying heights and statures. The consultation sought to identify aspects of the existing fleet that were not user-friendly, where safety needed improving and where age-old practices had not moved forward for many years, potentially placing clinicians and patients at risk.
The change of audible warning devices is one such change, so there are notable changes in the volume and tones, however, the system that has been installed is also used by other NHS Trusts & some UK Police services and while not being as loud as the systems on the Mercedes, they are a recognised installation and still produce in excess of 98 dB externally and maintain a peak of 82 dB internally so they are within the legal noise levels. While some members of staff may find them to be slightly quieter, they are type approved, fit for purpose, and sufficiently loud enough to warn members of the public and other road users of an ambulance in their vicinity.
Concerns have also been raised that the blue warning lights do not have the identical pattern to the existing Mercedes ambulances. As mentioned previously, we have moved forwards when reviewing the type and size of blue light units and although the blue light pattern on the Fiats is different to the ones on some of the Mercedes ambulances, not all previous ambulances had identical blue light configurations or identical flashing sequences & patterns. Whilst different in appearance, they are ECE R65 Class compliant and are also used by other ambulance services. Despite the change of appearance, the blue lights are specific to emergency vehicles and changes in pattern have not shown to cause confusion with other motorists.
To increase safety and public awareness, the design team agreed to incorporate an additional set of blue lights, recessed and to the side of the front number plates. These are additional to the main flashing blue lights and were incorporated to project a flashing blue light to the side and angled ahead to give further advanced warning as the ambulance begins exiting from a covert location such as a high walled hidden driveway. The number–plate blue lights are not intended to be facing forwards or intended to replace any other blue lights on the front of the Fiat ambulances; they are supplementary and the team agreed unanimously that the addition of the number–plate blue lights would be of great benefit. Despite being lower down, they are much further forward than any other side or bumper light installed on the current Mercedes ambulances and therefore a distinct advantage at inter-sections.
Unison Health & Safety Officer