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State-of-the-art ride arrives for Kenmare ambulance

It took almost two months longer than expected, but a new ambulance finally arrived in Kenmare on Feb. 22.

2/26/14 (Wed)

Since early January, the Kenmare Ambulance Squad has received two new abulatory vehicles to shore up its fleet. The unit on the left, a 2014 Ford F-550 4-wheel drive, is designed for winter driving conditions. The unit on the right, a 2012 Chevrolet 2-wheel drive, will be used during the summer months.

By Marvin Baker

It took almost two months longer than expected, but it finally arrived in Kenmare on Feb. 22.

The Kenmare Ambulance Squad has been waiting for a new, state-of-the-art vehicle that will not only allow the squad to transport patients in all types of conditions, but is said to be far more comfortable for the patient going to the hospital.

Mark Rethwisch, the sales manager for Premier Specialty Vehicles in Fergus Falls, Minn., delivered the 2014 Ford F-550 4-wheel drive on Friday.

Rethwisch talked about the features in the $210,000 vehicle that includes a $15,000 power-lift cot that will allow any EMT to move a patient without difficulty.

“The way this body is designed, it’s set up for impact integrity,” Rethwisch said. “There are beams on the sides that will minimize impact to the vehicle.”

He said the ambulance is produced by a company called Horton, which leads emergency vehicle research on crash testing.

Rethwisch said the ambulance has numerous safety features that the previous Kenmare ambulance vehicles did not. They include an air-ride suspension making the ride smoother, the ambulance cabin is mounted on the chassis with six mounts he said resemble motor mounts, which absorb shock and road noise.

In addition, the cabin has rollover protection through the solid side beams and cabin air bags. He said the inside of the doors and frames are designed for double strength in case of a mishap.

Outriggers are used from the chassis to the body to create a lower, wider center of gravity to allow the vehicle to corner better at higher speeds.

And, the cot in the cabin is mostly electronic. A switch releases the locks, moves the cot forward and back, suspends it momentarily, drops four wheels in a scissor-type motion and allows the first responder to easily wheel the patient to point B.

“That’s the slickest part of this  entire operation,” said Becky Nelson, the Kenmare Ambulance Squad leader. It’s the first power-lift system for the Kenmare squad that includes two first responders, 15 EMTs and six drivers.

As ambulance squad members Christian Standard and Gerilyn Bauer were stocking the new vehicle Friday afternoon in the Kenmare Fire Hall, Standard demonstrated the intriguing cot.

“Watch me, you can do this with one hand,” he said. “Typically, it takes two to three people to move a patient, now it doesn’t. This just took that narrow scope to be an EMT and expanded it.”

Standard said the cot will hold up to 800 pounds, so in theory, a patient could weigh up to 500 pounds, and there would still be a 100-pound allowance since the cot itself weighs 200 pounds.

The ambulance has a couple of other features of note. First is a communication system with Trinity Hospital in Minot that allows results of EKGs to be transmitted to the cardiac lab as the patient is being transported to the hospital.

Bauer said it saves critical time with cardiac patients because the doctor can be reading the EKG before the patient even reaches the hospital and once they arrive, the patient can sometimes be routed past the emergency room and right to the cardiac lab.

Standard pointed out that the vehicle has a diesel engine but uses a regenerator that recirculates the exhaust and re-burns it.

“The exhaust is essentially nullified,” Standard said. “Tests have shown that the air going in is dirtier than the exhaust coming out.”

The technology isn’t totally new, according to Standard. He said some farm machinery and semi-tractors are using the Clean Idle technology.

However, it requires use of a liquid called diesel exhaust fluid. While the ambulance was being tested inside the fire hall, at least seven people said they could not smell any exhaust fumes.

Nelson added the next thing will be a machine that does CPR on the patient. She said every ambulance squad will get the machine through a state grant that will actually do chest compressions.

An energy impact grant provided $80,000, Vets Gaming, $50,000, Rural EMS, $40,000, Fund Itt, $30,000, Kenmare City Sales Tax, $30,000, Alliance Pipeline, $5,000, Workforce Safety, $5,000 and Enbridge, $1,000. Nelson said there were also several additional individual donors that helped build the fleet.

The extra money allowed the squad to purchase a second, more normal ambulance, a 2012 Chevrolet 4500, that has been in Kenmare about a month. Though two model years old, the Chevrolet ambulance was a demonstrator unit and had never hauled a patient before coming to Kenmare.

“The other was a demo that Premier Specialty Vehicles had that we got much cheaper,” Nelson said. “We have had two ambulances as long as I can remember, but not two new ones at the same time.”

She added these vehicles are obviously more efficient and it will take any worry of breaking down away from the squad transporting patients... Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!