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Ambulances rush to help victims of a wildfire in Washington. AP

Ambulances rush to help victims of a wildfire in Washington. AP

An EMT waits in an ambulance parked in a neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts. AP

An EMT waits in an ambulance parked in a neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts. AP

Do you know how drivers should respond to an approaching ambulance? AP

Do you know how drivers should respond to an approaching ambulance? AP

Some ambulances like this one in Paris, France, are equipped for contagious disease patients. AP

Some ambulances like this one in Paris, France, are equipped for contagious disease patients. AP

What’s Inside an Ambulance?

Posted: January 2, 2016

“WEE-OOO! WEE-OOO!”

Did you hear that ambulance wail as it zoomed under the traffic light? Do you know what really hides behind its closed doors?

Certain rules govern what an ambulance must carry. The list of must-haves isn’t a short one! Just one or two minutes of care can determine whether a person lives or dies. People need air to live. They need their hearts to work properly. They also need a good supply of blood. For these reasons, an ambulance’s nooks and crannies are usually packed to the brim! Oxygen equipment helps people breathe. Spinal collars keep patients’ heads, necks, and spines very still. This can keep broken bones from shifting and damaging nerves or blood vessels. Ambulances also carry lots of bandages, splints for broken bones, and stretchers to safely carry patients inside.

But how can all this life-saving work happen inside a moving vehicle? Ambulances have high ceilings. That means paramedics can stand straight up without banging their heads. Ambulances also have powerful engines. That means they can haul lots of weight to the hospital in no time. And what if a patient has a contagious disease? Some ambulances even have sealed chambers inside. These don’t just serve the patients. They also protect paramedics from infection.

Do you know how to treat an ambulance in traffic? First, you should know that AMBULANCE is written backward on the front of these emergency vehicles. That isn’t because their designers don’t know how to write. The backwards writing actually helps ambulances move through traffic faster! When other drivers look in their rearview mirrors, the word reflects in the normal direction. It helps drivers recognize ambulances right away. Then the drivers pull over. They let the vehicle pass.

Ambulances also have a power you might sometimes wish your car had. They can change traffic lights! In many cases, a device inside an ambulance connects to a device inside traffic signals. Does an ambulance need to fly beneath a red light? It can turn it green. Does it need traffic from the other direction to stop? It can turn the light facing that way red. This makes traffic safer for everyone—and brings rescue fast.