Monday, February 11, 2013
By BEN R. WILLIAMS - Bulletin Staff Writer
Fans of customized cars and trucks need look no further. The new ambulance at Martinsville Fire and EMS may be the most unique vehicle on the road.
According to Deputy Chief Kristopher Shrader, the pre-planning and design of the ambulance began eight months before the contract to manufacture it was even signed. “We put together a committee with one person off each shift, three guys and myself,” Shrader said. “(We) were tasked with trying to come up with an ambulance configuration, a box design, to where whenever the attendants were in the truck, they would be secure.” According to Shrader, a difficulty with older, conventional ambulances is that because of the way the seats and seatbelts for the paramedics are designed, it is difficult for them to work on patients while being buckled in. If a paramedic is unrestrained in the event of an accident, he could sustain serious injuries. “It really called for a whole redesign of the truck itself,” Shrader said. “We took several trips to Florida; we met with a vendor from Wheeled Coach; and we designed the truck from the ground up.” Wheeled Coach is a company that specializes in designing the “box” portion of ambulances. The box on the city’s new ambulance is built onto a 2012 International TerraStar chassis. Wheeled Coach “had to design a whole new set of electronics,” Shrader said. “The way the controls are set up, no matter where you’re sitting in the truck, you can control the lights, the suction units. Typically on the older style trucks, if you’re not sitting in a particular spot, you can’t do any of that stuff.” Also, the seats for the EMS workers are fitted with five-point harnesses, similar to those used in racing events. “It is very unique,” Shrader said. “The manufacturer has never built a truck like this, period. They had to design some of the electronics from scratch. Everything that I could need is within arm’s reach.” Another feature of the ambulance that has proven popular with EMS workers is the Striker power lift system. “The original design for this truck called for a standard cot-mounting system,” Shrader said. “We got a power-load system, so that the cot realistically loads itself.” Instead of having to lift the cot carrying the patient off the ground and slide it into the ambulance, the power lift system lifts the cot automatically. “That way we don’t have a lot of the back strain,” Shrader said. Other new features include a camera in the box of the ambulance connected to a monitor in the front cabin, LED lighting that provides less drain on the battery and reflective red striping on the inside of the rear doors, so the ambulance is clearly visible at night even while the doors are open. “That’s going to be a NFPA (National Fire Protection Agency) requirement,” Shrader said. “That standard’s not in effect yet, but we went ahead and tried to meet that.” The sticker price on the ambulance was $260,000. Through incentives from the manufacturer and a grant from the state EMS office through the Rescue Squad Assistance fund program, the total cost to the city was less than $100,000. The new ambulance has been at Martinsville Fire and EMS since November. It is housed in and responding to calls out of the city fire station in uptown Martinsville. “Probably within the next month or two, its permanent assignment will be out of our Southside fire station,” Shrader said. Over the years, Shrader has worked in a lot of different ambulances, including a 1974 Cadillac ambulance and an ambulance based on a Chevrolet Suburban chassis. The difference between these older models and the new ambulance is vast, he said. “It’s night and day.”