FEMA ( Federal Emergency Management Agency) has awarded the Whatcom County fire departments a large regional grant from the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program. The grant will be shared by all fire departments in Whatcom County to improve the level of Emergency Medical Services (EMS) care and safety for citizens requiring transport to hospitals and emergency rooms.
Whatcom County Fire District # 11 agreed to be the “host agency” for the project and they developed and submitted the grant application for this project which was to replace 60 wheeled ambulance stretchers in all of the ambulances located in the various fire departments within the county. All Whatcom County fire agencies will be receiving new ambulance stretchers in December. The project had a total cost of just under $240,000 and with this shared cost award, the federal government will be paying for $191,849 (80%) of this project with the local county EMS fund paying $47,763 (20%) of the total project costs.
As a result of the remote, rural nature of our county and the tiered response system, it is necessary to transfer and relay patients using multiple ambulances. With the standardization of the ambulance stretchers, the patients only need to be secured to the initial stretcher and if they must be transferred to another ambulance, the locking and loading system from one ambulance to the next is standardized which means a quicker and safer transfer of the patient.
At the present time many of the stretchers in these ambulances are 35-40 years of age. They are breaking down frequently and the cost of maintain them is increasing. Parts and maintenance will be easier and less costly to maintain gaining additional cost savings. All these new stretchers are built to modern standards and capable of transporting patients up to 650 lbs; the current stretchers can only handle 350 lbs.
On average there are 40 EMS transports a day accomplished in Whatcom County, these stretchers are expected to perform better not only under urban conditions but, also in the rural environment that encompasses most of our county.
Replacing a few stretchers at a time would have taken decades and the fire departments would never have been fully in compliance with national industry standards. Asking the citizens to foot the bill for the funding for this project was simply unconscionable considering the current economy; applying for a grant was the only hope.
The awarding of this grant means that some of our citizen’s federal income tax dollars were regained for the direct benefit of the citizens locally averting the need to raise these funds locally either through local fundraising efforts or local tax increases.