National Institute for Standards & Technology (NIST)

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is a federal research and development laboratory that specializes in measurement science. They have over 100 years of supporting many measurement aspects of homeland security and public safety (primarily fire and law enforcement) such as: performance measures and test methods and practices for personal protective and operational equipment, response tactics, technology performance, and forensics.

In 2010, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) contacted the NIST to assist with the development of standards for automotive ambulances by incorporating ergonomics, human factors and safety elements.

Initial efforts focused on identifying safety gaps and incorporating them into standards and guidance documents. To accomplish this, NIST researched emerging technology/designs, released a user survey, conducted focus groups, a workshop, and went on ride-alongs with EMS services.

Based upon the information collected, over 200 individual criteria were developed that focused on seating and restraints, workspace, communications, storage and other areas. With a team of computer scientists, systems engineers and human factors experts, NIST developed several new and safer design standards for patient compartments. The designs were then entered into simulation software to help validate the results. The simulation system allowed NIST to apply different scenarios (e.g., cardiac arrest, trauma) to determine if the EMT mannequins could perform the required tasks while remaining seated and restrained.

In 2013, DHS and NIST published the Ambulance Patient Compartment Human Factors Design Guidebook, which incorporates the results of this research and illustrates recommended patient compartment designs.

NIST provided technical assistance during the development of both Ground Vehicle Standards 1.0 and NFPA 1917: Standard for Automotive Ambulances; and continues to work collaboratively with the EMS community, federal partners, ambulance manufacturers, and trade organizations (e.g., NASEMSO, NAEMT, IAFF, AMD) to promote the use of standards and the guidebook toward a safer generation of ambulances.


Jennifer L. Marshall
Standards Coordination Office
National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)
Phone: (301) 975-3396