There’s one thing I realized as I rode the bus from Fulda to the retired air force base in the German country side and that was “I’m not in Kansas anymore Toto.” They came from all over the world through the lush green, purple and yellow crop fields to the site of RETTmobile 2009, one of Europe’s largest EMS, fire and rescue exhibitions and public safety trade fairs. The setting had a very international flavor.

Among the tens of thousands who attended were 22 delegates hosted by the EMS Safety Foundation and its founder, Dr. Nadine Levick. Among our contingent were delegates who ventured from as far away as Canada, Colorado, Alaska, Florida, Texas, Australia and Michigan, to name a few. Everyone was here to see what’s new and improved, bigger and better, smarter, easier, and more importantly what’s safer. This trip is all about discovery. What’s happening in Europe that’s different from the US and why?

As I paid my 10 Euros (about $14 US) to enter the main gate it was apparent there wouldn’t be a second to waste. There were helicopters overhead, ambulance and fire truck test tracks, German military and fire brigade units and high visibility vehicle (BMW, Mercedes, Audi, VW, etc.) of every size, shape and color everywhere I looked. Massive white tents covered the grounds and housed everything from ambulances, quick response vehicles, fire and EMS equipment, cots, clothing and much, much more.

I headed to the EMS Safety Foundation’s rally point for the ceremonial group photo and to meet the rest of the group. We all were here for a common goal, to study and photograph innovation that maybe beneficial to the safety of fire and EMS personnel back in the states and the communities we serve.

The first thing that was most obvious was that the Europeans love to be seen at the scene. Most vehicles were covered in high visibility markings of bright orange, red and lime green on all sides. Even in the low light conditions of the cloudy day, I realized you couldn’t miss these vehicles coming or going from any direction or at an intersection, where most vehicle crashes occur. Fire trucks, ambulances, police cars and even the helicopters were decked out in colors and were very obvious. High intensity LED lighting was used on most vehicles making them really easy to be identified in a crowd.

One thing that was quickly noticeable in every ambulance that I saw was that there were NO side-facing seats in any of the units. Not one! No bench seats, no sideways “captains” chairs, no side-facing seating of any kind, period. Every front-facing seat was equipped with a passenger restraint system. Every piece of medical equipment was also contained in its own well designed holder so it couldn’t fly around in the event of a crash and injure or kill an occupant. All ambulance manufacturers are required, by law, to test all cots, mounting systems and equipment holders to 10 Gs of force. All restraint equipment is crash tested and rated, by law. This really made me think…OK, what’s up with that? Why hasn’t the US ambulance industry or the federal government gotten on board with this safety idea yet?

People over here work smarter, not harder. They don’t lift anyone or anything. There is either a device that lifts the cot into the ambulance or the cot itself, ergonomically designed, lifts itself into the rig. I found name brand U.S. cot manufacturers demonstrating and selling product here in Europe that is not used in the US. All cots are crash tested and rated, no exceptions.

One of the best gadgets I saw was a simple and effective patient transfer device to get our customers from the cot to a hospital bed. Smart, simple and effective, no lifting! None of the fire equipment was dead lifted either. All compartmentalized and on wheels. It’s rolled off the fire unit on its well designed wheels to the scene. No lifting. Even wheel chairs I noticed have motors that assist with going up or down stairs. Amazing stuff, some simple and some complexed but all ergonomically designed to save your back.

So off I go, like a kid in a candy store. There’s so much to see, discover and comprehend. I’ll be beaming more pictures and information to my blog from RETTmobile over the next few days. That’s what this whole trip is all about…discovery and information sharing.
Wayne Zygowicz, JEMS Editorial Board member

RETTmobile 2009

EMS Safety Foundation Delegates

High visability markings

VW Ambulance

High visability markings

High visability BMW

Only forward facing seating

Cot loading system

Cot loading system

Fire equipment

Patient transfer

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Comment by Benedikt Lautenschlager on June 21, 2009 at 9:08pm
I really like your blog and view on the European/German EMS and Fireservice. Its nice to see that also an US EMT-P says that there are things who could be used in the US to because it is the same than here where we sometimes thing "oh look at theier ambulance/firetruck/clothing".

Greetings Ben

PS: His name is Prof. Dr. med. Sefrin
PSS: Hope you don´t get nut cause of my english
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