In certain areas around the country, we sometimes see a duplication of fire services and EMS, not to mention competition—sometimes downright animosity—between the two. But among the negative relationships, there are positive examples of fire and EMS working together in innovative, productive ways.
The Bay Shore/Brightwaters Rescue Ambulance (BSBRA) organization, located on Long Island, has found a way to provide and expand service to their community while continually working side by side with the Bay Shore Fire Department. A great example of this positive relationship is apparent in the latest addition to the BSBRA’s fleet.
According to BSBRA Chief of Department Bill Froehlich, the organization first had the idea to design a special operations vehicle some 10 years ago. “We already provide BLS and ALS services to our community, but wanted to expand what we do,” Froehlich says. “The basic concept was to have a vehicle with which we could respond to MCI and rehab incidents. We didn’t want a heavy-rescue vehicle, because that would infringe upon what the local fire department was responsible for.” The idea took a backburner until BSBRA Assistant Chief Gerald Guszack started working on the concept with earnest.
“We had operated with an older ambulance and a van for a long time” Guszack says. “We really needed more space for our equipment. We also wanted the vehicle to have 4 x 4 capabilities because we had some areas in our district that were not accessible with our available vehicles.” Guszack also specced the vehicle with a front-mounted winch, a light tower, a heat and A/C unit large enough to power a 15' x 30' tent, a microwave, a refrigerator, life preservers and BLS and ALS medical equipment.
“Initially we looked around locally and nationally at what other EMS organizations were using,” Guszack says. “Using the Internet also helped in our search for a manufacturer to build the vehicle or our choice.” And this was no simple build—the BSBRA wanted the vehicle to be able to respond to mass-casualty incidents (MCIs), large fires, rehab, triage, wildfires, hurricanes and any other major disaster locally and even in a mutual-aid capacity throughout Islip, Suffolk and Nassau counties, and the five boroughs of New York City.
Before the BSBRA purchased the vehicle, it met with the chiefs of the Bay Shore Fire Department. “We discussed what we wanted to accomplish with the response of the vehicle,” Froehlich says. “Normally we have two ambulances respond to every fire scene, so this would be an additional option should the vehicle be needed. We explained that we weren’t trying to step on anyone’s toes and that we would like to work with them at all emergency scenes. They welcomed the idea 100%, which took a great deal of stress off of us.”
Like most organizations, the BSBRA went out for competitive bidding. “We received quotes from three manufacturers,” Froehlich says. “Great Lakes Specialty Vehicles represented Custom Fab & Body of Marion, Wis. We felt that Custom Fab was good for us, simply based on the fact that their company had built similar vehicles for other agencies nationwide.”
Custom Fab also gave the BSBRA a great price. “Since we didn’t have grant money, this helped us out a great deal,” Froehlich says. “Our budget comes from a special ambulance district tax, so price was important for us going forward with the purchase.”
Representatives from the BSBRA traveled to Custom Fab on at least four occasions to meet with engineers and oversee the build process. “They offered suggestions on what would or wouldn’t work, as well as being receptive to our ideas and implementing most of them,” Froehlich says. “The vehicle was delivered in record time and has worked out well for us. It came just in time for Hurricane Sandy.” The BSBRA fondly calls it Hercules.
The BSBRA was proactive in their thinking. They planned for this purchase more than 10 years ago and designed the vehicle to not only help them expand their service to the community, but also to help the local fire department and other organizations through mutual aid.
Preplanning in advance for your response district’s needs should be your first priority in any vehicle purchase. Also take into consideration budget constraints, and how the vehicle will respond and be used. In today’s poor economy, sharing equipment among agencies and working together is a great concept—one that should be expanded upon all over the country.
Sidebar: A Closer Look
The Bay Shore/Brightwaters Rescue Ambulance’s new rescue vehicle is built on a 2009 Chevrolet C5500 Kodiak crew cab chassis with Duramax diesel engine and Allison automatic transmission. The OEM front bumper was removed and replaced with a Buckstop bumper that houses a recessed-mounted Warn 16,000-lb. winch. The truck is equipped with an Onan 20-kW Protec PTO generator that powers a Will-Burt NS4.5-9000(OPT) 9000-watt light mast and two Hannay electric rewind cable reels with 200 feet of 8/3 cable. The body is a 13' all-aluminum walk-around rescue-style body equipped with ROM aluminum roll-up doors. The body top features two coffin compartments, one on each side of the body with a center walkway. These compartments are equipped with multiple adjustable shelves and slide-out trays, including a dual direction tray. The apparatus is equipped with a Whelen M Series Super LED warning-light package and Whelen Pioneer LED scene lights in multiple locations.
Sidebar: More about BSBRA
The Bay Shore/Brightwaters Rescue Ambulance operates with five ambulances:
-2005 PL Custom
-Two 2003 PL Custom
-1998 PL Custom
All five vehicles are built on Ford F-350 chassis. The organization also operates several fly cars and a paramedic ALS vehicle that carries narcotics, telemetry and defibrillators. The organization is staffed by 150 volunteer members and four paid members who work 6 a.m. – 6 p.m., with duty crews covering the remainder. The response district covers eight square miles, with light industrial, restaurants, strip shopping centers, apartment complexes and a large waterfront area. During Hurricane Sandy, the company responded to an average of 25 runs per day for a total of 238 calls from Sunday through Wednesday of that week; 25 members were on duty during the week.