NORWICH, Conn.—If they're bright, loud and obnoxious, American Ambulance says that's exactly the point.
The company replaced four of its 29 ambulances in early June with a blue and yellow checkerboard pattern to make drivers look twice, so the vehicles get to where they're going more quickly and safely.
"I think a lot of people are looking at them and saying, 'What the heck?'" said Linda Orlomoski, a 911 dispatcher with the company.
The design, a pattern called "Battenburg," is used in Europe and was first put on police cars, after a study found it attracted quick attention. Battenburg usually has two or more rows of alternating, reflective squares, often yellow on top and another color on the side.
American Ambulance Service Inc. President Michael Aliano said, too often, drivers don't hear sirens or notice a white ambulance with a stripe. Then people ram into the vehicles.
"We could be parked somewhere and we get driven into," he said. An ambulance was rear-ended in June, he said. The patient inside was not injured.
The company received special permission from the state health department to use the Battenburg pattern, and plans to replace its entire fleet, possibly within three years.
The four new ambulances have several other features: sirens with alternating high and low sounds, side doors that slide open and rear doors that fold around the back of the ambulance.
One of the company's new paramedic trucks also has a pulsing sound called "the howler" that vibrates the ground around the vehicle.
Lori Ploof, a supervisor paramedic, said the ambulances are larger inside; she's 5 feet, 8 inches tall, and can stand in the back of one. Her head hits the ceiling in the older model when she's hunched over.
"It's a lot easier because you have more room to work," she said.
Orlomoski said she likes the new look of the ambulances.
"When you first see them, you probably look and say, 'Oh my gosh.' But they grow on you."
Information from: Norwich Bulletin, http://www.norwichbulletin.com/