Every minute matters when life is on the line. That's why ambulances exist and why we all (well, most of us, anyway) pull over when we see their flashing lights and hear sirens coming our way. And it's also why ambulances need to be as reliable as possible, with maintenance kept up so that they are in perfect working order at all times.

Of course, modern vehicles are extremely complicated pieces of equipment, and sometimes new technologies catch operators by surprise. Such is the case with recent emissions equipment designed to reduce the amount of harmful pollutants emitted by diesel engines, as they have the power to bring the vehicle to a grinding halt if not properly serviced.

A grinding halt is exactly what one ambulance in the Washington, DC area came to recently while carrying a 34-year-old man to the hospital. According to Firefighters Union President Ed Smith, a four-level warning system should have let operators know the ambulance was low on diesel exhaust fluid (read: urea), but the system apparently did not function as designed. The US Environmental Protection Agency does not require emergency vehicles to be equipped with engine shutdown systems, according to this PDF, but it would appear some ambulances have not been retrofitted with the proper modifications to keep them running.

Sadly, the critically injured patient died at the hospital. The ambulance had come to a stop on a highway, and a second ambulance had to be dispatched to pick up the man being transported, adding between five and seven minutes to his trip to the hospital. The incident is currently being investigated. Click here to read more about diesel exhaust fluid and its role in reducing emissions, and scroll down below to watch a video report from WUSA9, a local news station.


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 217 Comments
      Niels Marienlund
      • 2 Years Ago
      According to the quoted article, the man was a carjacking suspect shot by police. Call me callous, but that makes me feel a hell of a lot better that he kicked the bucket.
        dohc73
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Niels Marienlund
        The worst part is that now the family of the carjacker will undoubtedly sue the city, the police department, the ambulance company, the hospital, the EMT's, the service company, Henry Ford for first offering a car for every man, Mercedes Benz for inventing the self-propelled motor car at all, the owner of the car that was jacked, Michelle Obama, just because, and Exxon-Mobil for refining the crude that shut down the engine. For pain and suffering, of course.
      knightrider_6
      • 2 Years Ago
      The "patient" was a car thief who was shot by the police while carjacking. Karma is a biyatch
        2 wheeled menace
        • 2 Years Ago
        @knightrider_6
        He was a suspect.
        wilkegm
        • 2 Years Ago
        @knightrider_6
        So the money that wont be spent prosecuting and housing the dead carjacker can now be spent on finding out who screwed the pooch- Did the EMTs running the vehicle ignore the early warnings or fail to file the proper maintenance requests? Did the company that ordered and operates the ambulance not specify emissions over-ride or fail to maintain the truck when requested? Did the Upfitter order the wrong truck or fail to notice they got the wrong truck? Did the truck's emission system fail to give early maintenance warnings? Did they ship a truck w/o emission over-ride that was labled as having it? lots of questions...
      John
      • 2 Years Ago
      Urea systems don't just shut down vehicles. They do however prevent them from being restarted until urea has been added, typically a minimum of 2 gallons is needed to reset the system. The issue is that the Urea was not filled. With the idle hours that an ambulance can experience, the urea should be topped off at every shift change as well as all of the other fluid levels checked and topped off if needed. How hard is this? Either way, a man who was shot by police that had enough cause to shoot him knew that he had the chance for life or death by taking deadly action towards police officers.
        Luke
        • 2 Years Ago
        @John
        Regardless of urea, a DPF system still has to regenerate. Having urea reduces the number regens needed (our trucks will go tens of thousands of miles with urea before needing a regen), but doesn't eliminate them. If the DPF filter gets plugged, the system will respond (generally by de-rating the engine). Apparently someone missed the checkbox to eliminate this 'feature.'
      Dave D
      • 2 Years Ago
      When I was a kid, my family was vacationing in Florida when my little brother darted out in front of a bus. He nearly died because the ambulance had a locking gas cap on it and the EFF'ing morons couldn't get the cap off when they got stuck in a traffic jam and ran out of gas. They stood there with their thumbs up their ass and my dad had to find a crow bar and rip the frigging thing off so they could put gas in it. I suppose we should all be screaming about gas cap locks now.
      Joe
      • 2 Years Ago
      Most police officers would not open fire on a suspect without good reason (aka a gun pointed back at them), so in this case good riddance for the suspect, better to have that dumbf*** in the ambulance that crapped out rather than one of our boys in blue, but at the same time.. skimping on maintenance for any emergency vehicle is not acceptable, we all need these vehicles to perform in time sensitive circumstances, having an ambulance or other emergency vehicle unable to respond to a crisis situation because of something so rudimentary is plain stupid. However in the case of this carjacking suspect, it very well could have been karma.
        dovegraybird
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Joe
        I agree Joe, but now the criminals family will be able to sue, both the ambulance company and the company that made the ambulance for big bucks. No need to let the death of a scumbag go to waste you know, he shoulda died at the scene.
      rp0467
      • 1 Year Ago
      A better maintenance schedule for their ambulance fleet could have prevented this. In other words, the blame rests with the mechanics that services these vehicles.
      Scooter
      • 2 Years Ago
      A failure to properly maintain an ambulance...lawsuit.
      Peggy
      • 1 Year Ago
      Go Green! Dirt bag or not, it could have just as easily been your mother. I don't fault the medics or the police, I fault the city for not ensuring their ambulances run.
      Fonin
      • 2 Years Ago
      If DEF is required, then the vehicle shoudl go into limp mode until refilled. I understand that many of this type of vehicle will have a limited lim mode as you approach 0 fluid, but why would you want that to be the limiter and strand you? Look at the larger picture, it isn\'t like the brief period would kill the environment, and as long as you restrict to low operating speeds, people will refill to prevent the frustrations of only going 15mph (but at least it would be something). Also, should they carry a spare gallon with them?
        Luke
        • 2 Years Ago
        @Fonin
        This article is a little misleading because they're blaming the urea. Ultimately, the problem is that the DPF filter became plugged and in order for this to be rectified, the truck must regen (or heat the filter to an extremely high temperature in order to burn off the accumulated soot). Urea reduces the number of regens needed but does not eliminate them. Considering the abundance of idle time that an ambulance experiences, manual regens are needed more often (because a truck that experiences a lot of driving will regen during those times). The truck/ambulance cannot be driven during a manual regen.
      sam302psu
      • 2 Years Ago
      It wasn't related to urea for the SCR. It was because the DPF was full of soot. That's a fire hazard.
        Ele Truk
        • 2 Years Ago
        @sam302psu
        For urban departments, which often perform short runs, the vehicles are required to undergo what’s called “manual regeneration,” in which the vehicle must be parked and the engine run at a high level for an extended period of time in order to generate the heat necessary to burn the soot from the filter. On the 32 District ambulances equipped with the regeneration devices, warning lights are supposed to signal to drivers that the vehicles need to be taken out of service so that the regeneration can be completed. If the soot is not removed routinely, an engine can suffer a drop in power or fail in a manner similar to what would occur if an exhaust pipe was obstructed. Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2013/may/30/glitch-emissions-system-forces-dc-ambulance-carryi/
      renagades666
      • 1 Year Ago
      Regardless of all the facts its going to be hard to not point the finger at everyone in this case, the system should have had a DEF gauge installed , first off the there should have been an amber warning light of low DEF, then a second warning with a warning alarm to go with the first low DEF, then a red shut engine down with the alarms still going off and the engine going into derate , the final straw is damage to the exhaust filter which would become so plugged that the exhaust would not be let out and stalling the engine, so with all these factors everyone is at faugh from the mechanic to the driver for not checking the DEF daily or weekly, next in line would be the manufacture of the computer and software , we can blame the electronics but in the end it comes down to human failure .
        Melinda
        • 1 Year Ago
        @renagades666
        OK, but didn't you read above that the 1st, 2nd and third warning systems never worked, the engine just stopped, period, THAT sounds like Manufacturer issues to me.
          renagades666
          • 1 Year Ago
          @Melinda
          you are 100 per cent right it very well could be but we may never know the real truth because now they are saying they found a bad fuel filter , I have seen more human erra than anything, right down to people being in a hurry and not paying attention and filling the DEF tank with diesel , this action can also shut the engine down without any notice, please remember we live a world of electronics , these systems that use DEF produces air that is so clean that you can stand right in front of the exhaust pipe and inhale purer air than the air you take in during your every day travels
      david
      • 2 Years Ago
      they should have been using a dodge platform for the ambulance as they don't need exhaust fluids, also isn't there a warning light that tells the driver these fluids are low??
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