Almost nobody spares a thought for the most familiar Sprinter on the road – until they need it. But then they have other concerns. The German Red Cross Association in Büdingen in central Germany has ten ambulances based on the Sprinter. It is far from the only emergency service to trust in the vans with the star. All over the world, converted Sprinter transport patients during the critical minutes between the accident site and the hospital, between life and death. Put a little less dramatically: absolutely reliable vehicles are essential.
Fahrtec-Systeme from northern Germany specializes in box bodies. The square aluminum tubes are assembled by hand to create a box-shaped frame. This construction has exceptional torsional flexibility and also provides maximum protection in the event of accidents and on uneven roads. The interior and exterior of the frame are covered with two-millimeter-thick aluminum panels. The box structures on the DRK Büdingen’s Sprinter are thoroughly overhauled every six years. This means that they are overhauled from the ground up, repainted, rejoined and then reattached to the Sprinter chassis. Nevertheless, the German Red Cross is constantly purchasing new vehicles for its fleet. In addition, the box construction also enables rapid repairs in the event of damage. All of DRK Büdingen’s ambulances are equipped identically and fulfill the exceptionally strict quality management standards of the German Red Cross.
There are a variety of different rescue vehicles in German-speaking countries, each with their own abbreviation. A short glossary:
Ambulance (RTW): Ambulances are used for emergency rescue. They contain equipment for transporting seriously injured or sick patients. The emergency paramedics can use the equipment to keep the patients alive or revive them. There are a variety of different ambulances such as the heavy-duty ambulance (S-RTW) for especially heavy patients, the intensive care ambulance (ITW) for patients requiring intensive care or the infectious diseases ambulance (I-RTW) which provides protection against highly infectious pathogens.
Patient transport vehicle (KTW): These are generally smaller vans such as the Vito which transport patients who are not in critical condition. This is the classical ambulance vehicle.
Emergency ambulance (NAW): When an ambulance has an emergency physician on board, it is known as an emergency ambulance. Special vehicles for pediatric care are known as baby emergency ambulances (B-NAW)
Mobile intensive care unit (NEF): These are generally vans such as the Vito or passenger vehicles which transport an emergency physician to the accident location. They are equipped with considerably more medication then an ambulance but also include the same equipment.
Two trained specialists are on call to provide emergency treatment in 12 hour shifts. The ambulances are also utilized for inter-hospital transfers. The procedure has to be perfectly coordinated during all of the around five call-outs per day. The moment dispatchers receive an emergency call, they have to guide the most suitable ambulance to the accident location in order to comply with the legally stipulated emergency assistance times. A digital radio transmits the GPS data to the control center. The computer program suggests the closest ambulance. The location data is sent directly to the driver’s navigation device. During callouts, the paramedics are always connected to the headquarters via hand-held radios. They no longer have to enter addresses manually. Instead, they can immediately switch on the sirens and head out. The only reason we would like to take a ride in an ambulance: to use the four pneumatic sirens on the roof and activate the special signaling lights behind the radiator grille!
Time is critical in an emergency. Everything has to go smoothly. The layout of the box body is planned down to the last detail. Seats for the two passengers are fitted on the left and right next to the patient stretchers. Electrical equipment such as the defibrillator and the ECG are fitted on the wall on the right. A 230 V transformer is also on board to provide equipment with electricity. The rear wall is equipped with cabinets containing medications and infusions. Both passengers have flexible access to the working area. The cupboards are made of an especially light and disinfectant-resistant material. An opening between the driver’s cabin and the rear compartment enables the paramedics to communicate with the driver at all times. The reversing camera, the engine heating system and snow chains for winter ensure that everyone on board can trust in safe transport, no matter how exciting the drive.
Mercedes-Benz Sprinter 519 CDI, model year 2016
OM 642, 6-cylinder diesel
7G-TRONIC PLUS automatic transmission
Permitted total weight
6.60 m x 2.20 m x 3.30 m
ECG with capnometry
2x 10 liter oxygen flasks in an external compartment
2x suction apparatus
2x blood pressure measuring devices
Intravenous medication and refrigerator for cooled materials
Charger /230 V transformer
Consumables: needles, infusions, dressing materials
2x blood sugar/blood pressure measuring devices
Warming box for warm infusions
Photos: DRK Büdingen