New ambulance provides for smoother ride

By Sara Bruestle | Nov 14, 2012
Photo by: Sara Bruestle Firefighter Steve Walsh demonstrates the five-point harness feature in the Mukilteo Fire Department’s new ambulance on Nov. 9 at the Old Town Fire Station. The ambulance has a number of enhanced safety features for a smoother ride to a hospital.

Maybe you’ve seen it in action: The fire department has a new ambulance.

The Mukilteo Fire Department put its new-and-improved aid car – for which safety and a smooth ride are of utmost importance – into service for the first time on Oct. 19. It replaces an ambulance that was 14 years old.

“The ride is so much better for our patients and so much better for us,” said Firefighter Chris Clark. “The other one rode a little rough.”

The $171,000 ambulance sports a variety of enhanced safety features, including these custom changes:

• Firefighters now strap up like a racecar driver into five-point seatbelts for added security and movement. A five-point seatbelt harnesses them in, but gives them 30 inches of movement to work on patients without needing to unbuckle. A typical seatbelt is three point; a belt across the waist is two point.

“The back of the aid cars had just two point across your waist, so you have to reach over when working with a patient,” said Assistant Fire Chief Brian McMahan. “Now you can move and stand up and lean over.”

• The gurney loads into the center of the ambulance, where it used to be off-center and left of the driver side. This helps keep the patient on the gurney from bumping into the sides of the car while in transit to the hospital. It means a smoother ride and less pain for the patient.

• All of the angles inside the ambulance are curved instead of a sharp 90 degrees, so it won’t hurt as much if firefighters or patients hit their head on anything.

• One of the seats in the back is on a track system that allows the main caregiver to move 42 inches one way or the other. It keeps the firefighter safely strapped into his seat as he works on a patient.

• All panel controls – such as heat and lights – are moved from the driver side to the passenger side of the ambulance, so the driver can focus on driving.

• All equipment now has its own compartment or can be mounted down for secure storage, whereas before there was some loose equipment without its own proper place.

• There are now signals in the back to let firefighters and the patient know when the driver is about to turn or brake. Movement means pain for patients, so this at least gives them a warning that it is coming.

• Compartments on the sides of the aid cars have roll-up doors that won’t be in the way of traffic and slide-out trays to reduce back injuries. These compartments hold six air packs and other tools for fire response – and one air pack alone weighs 30-40 pounds.

• The back of the ambulance has a built-in desk so that a firefighter can type paperless reports on a laptop with ease.

“Now people don’t have to drive around the doors when we sometimes leave them open,” McMahan said. “They’re roll-up doors, so that is no longer an issue.”

This new ambulance replaces a 1998 model aid car. That aid car is now a backup.

With this purchase, the city now has a replacement schedule of 10 years for all ambulances. The fire department has three aid cars in service, not including the backup.

The other aid cars – 8 and 5 years old – are set to be replaced in 2014 and 2017, respectively.

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