Splat: A pro’s answer to bug guts

Do many of the most important things in life are invisible, Life-Saver. Or at least they’re supposed to be. The air you breathe, for instance. The thoughts you think, the feelings you feel, and the debits on your credit cards. (Hmm, sorry. Bad subject.)”ž

In fact, life itself is invisible. But you know when it_s there, and you know when it_s not. It_s a little like a clean windshield. Check out a bug sometime, after he_s bulked up on fresh, juicy corn and decides to flap across the road for dessert. Ka-pow! Halfway there, your windshield comes along and alters his little mind. Alters a lot of other stuff, too, and turns him into a smoothie (plus parts). Poor little fella.

You can collect a lot of bug parts on something the size of an ambulance windshield; and the bad thing is, they_re all joined by splat. You can_t see through splat, certainly not well enough to drive, anyway. And don_t even”žthink about using your windshield wipers, especially not for big, squishy eaters like moths and grasshoppers. (Or bees.) If you do, you_ll be driving blind for sureÆ’blue juice or no blue juice.”ž

Fact is, lots of things can make a windshield visible: dust, back-splash, dirty snow, oil droplets suspended in the smoky blue exhaust of that old car you followed back from your last call, and even the greasy film that builds up on a wet road after it_s been dry for a couple of months.”ž

All of those things can make driving a dangerous sport, especially with an “experienced” windshield that_s already been pitted by sand and road grit. We_ve posed plenty of clean-windshield ideas for professional drivers in this column throughout the past 28 years: soapy water, wax, newspaper, Windex, alcohol, chrome polish, clean wiper blades and, when all else fails, even new windshields.

But sooner or later, cleaning your glass means somehow you have to be able to reach it. And unless you possess the dimensions of Wilt Chamberlain, you gotta stand on something to do it.

Regular ladders are OK, but they_re unstable and they get in the way. And the extra steps on a ladder will cost you some mirror space in exchange for that perfect height. Plenty of us have resorted to standing on top of the front tires. Considering how often you_re actually wiping the windshield as part of a rig wash, those tires are likely to be wetÆ’and slippery. That_s risking your career, or worse. In fact, given the choice, many folks simply opt not to dry the glass, settling for whatever the wipers will reach. It_s understandable, but it leaves the glass looking water-spotted and dingyÆ’and you like an amateur.

I think there_s a better answer. You know those fancy wheeled ladders Home Depot uses to stock the highest shelves? They_re called rolling ladders or ladder platforms. They_re very stable on flat surfaces. Empty, you can roll one around all dayÆ’or just shove it out of the way if you get a call. But as soon as you put some weight on it (like, by climbing onto its stairway), you compress its corner springs, retract its casters, and force its rubber feet to contact the floor.

Rolling ladders come in various heights and widths and are available in aluminum or painted steel. It turns out there are several models with top-step heights of 30 inches. If you_re between five and six feet tall, that_s just about perfect for reaching the middle of the windshield on an E350 or E450 Ford. If you work with a leprechaun, you can order one with an extra step. There_s about a 100% price difference between the models with 16- and 24-inch tread widths. You_ll also pay a little more for a model with a safety railing. I_d recommend the extra width (for a wider stance) and the railing (because you_ll be standing on the top step), for about $400.”ž

Good people are easily worth the cost of good equipment. You_ll never wear one of these things out, and it_ll help you to prevent some major splat. (Yours.)”ž

You can view an assortment of these tools on the Grainger Web site at www.grainger.com. Grainger advertises a delivery time of three days. If your agency doesn_t have an account with them, it_s a pretty sure bet your local hospital will. I_m thinking you can get their materials manager to order you one.“žJEMS

Thom Dick”ž has been involved in EMS for 36 years, 23 of them as a full-time EMT and paramedic in San Diego County. He_s currently the quality care coordinator for Platte Valley Ambulance, a hospital-based 9-1-1 system in Brighton, Colo. Contact him at”žboxcar414@aol.com.


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