When disaster strikes, whether a hurricane, tornado or home fire, American Red Cross disaster workers climb into emergency response vehicles and travel to the neighborhoods of those in need, providing food, water and comfort. Red Cross emergency response vehicles have become an iconic image of these disaster relief services, and the next-generation design will continue that tradition.
In nearly two dozen communities across the United States, the Red Cross is testing two new prototype emergency response vehicles to ensure that the new design meets the needs of the people who turn to the Red Cross for help after disasters.
The Red Cross is redesigning the response vehicles to put technology to work helping clients and moving toward a more-efficient fleet. The prototypes are the result of a five-year process engaging volunteers, employees, partners and the design community to create a vehicle that is more cost efficient and provides a better experience for both disaster workers and the people in need of help.
The Red Cross has more than 320 emergency response vehicles in 49 states that get help to people in need after disasters big and small, from coastal communities devastated by Hurricane Sandy to every day home fires down the street.
Over the next decade, the Red Cross expects to replace and potentially increase our current fleet of response vehicles while saving millions of dollars by switching to a more effective vehicle platform with reduced maintenance costs. Almost half of the response vehicles in the current fleet are older than 10 years, requiring extensive maintenance and making it difficult to find replacement parts.
The new prototypes will be less expensive to buy, have reduced maintenance costs, have a longer life span and be more fuel efficient. The new design is more ergonomic for workers, easier to drive, provides ample storage room for supplies and meals, and adjustable to the needs of disasters large and small.
For example, modular features allow the new vehicle to quickly transform so that volunteers can either serve thousands of meals a day after a big hurricane or meet one-on-one with a family displaced by a home fire. The vehicles will also have external dynamic messaging, providing the opportunity for drivers to share real-time information and situational awareness.
The Red Cross has a long history of providing help and comfort from mobile vehicles. In 1898, Clara Barton used a wagon as an ambulance for her work on the battlefield. During World War II, the Red Cross used clubmobiles to support U.S. servicemen.
The Red Cross began to standardize the organization's disaster response vehicles around an ambulance design in 1984. Prior to the 1984 initiative, the Red Cross used converted bread trucks, station wagons and pickup trucks to deliver meals and snacks after disasters. The prototypes that are being tested today represent the next generation of these historic response vehicles and will bring help and hope to those in need.