General Manager Tom McEntee is credited with developing the initiative, said Peter Hubbard, AMR of Riverside County’s manager of government affairs.
Hubbard has an autistic son whom McEntee and others in the organization have met. When McEntee proposed the idea, Autism Speaks hit close to home, so they decided to start there, reaching out to the organization, which enthusiastically embraced the concept. “As the father of an autistic child, I’m personally grateful for this program,” Hubbard said.
The California Highway Patrol must approve the designs, and then the ambulances head to the shop for decal removal, repainting and application of the new custom decals, Hubbard said. Cost per vehicle runs between $4,000 and $5,000, and AMR covers the full cost.
The customized ambulances are currently used only for non-emergency, interfacility transports. “The concept is to have every BLS ambulance in our fleet eventually branded,” Hubbard said. “Frankly, I’m hoping that’s how we will differentiate our BLS and ALS ambulances.”
Several organizations have come forward hoping to get their own ambulance. Presently, they’re only working with national organizations, but recently a local charity also approached AMR seeking to participate.
Hubbard said that in addition to serving as moving billboards for the charities, the vehicles have been requested to be on display at charity events, including a recent Autism Speaks conference at the Rose Bowl.
His only advice to other agencies interested in pursuing this type of initiative is to keep the messaging on the vehicles “very simple.” People should know at a glance which charity is along for the ride.