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Fire Department Welcomes Refurbished Ambulance

By Staff | Jan 28, 2009

New Martinsville Fire Chief Larry Couch said the design of the new ambulance allows for more room in the patient compartment.

On Dec. 29 the New Martinsville Fire Department took delivery of its new 2008 Ford Ambulance from US CoachWorks, Inc. of Kansas City, Mo. This new unit marks the department’s first new ambulance since it began offering EMS services to the community in April 2002, replacing a 1991 ambulance that the department purchased as a used unit in the fall of 2001.

The New Martinsville Fire Department began offering EMS services as a supplemental service to that which was already in place throughout the county after an incident in early fall of 2001 where firefighters waited for 45-minutes with a burn victim on Doolin Run Road. “All of the area ambulances were already occupied on other emergencies, we had a gentleman who had accidentally cut into a natural gas line and was seriously burned. We had our own EMT’s on the scene providing treatment, but no means by which to properly transport the victim to the hospital,” according to Larry Couch, NMVFD Fire Chief.

Then President and Assistant Fire Chief Kelly Nelsen appointed a committee to investigate the need and viability of a supplemental EMS provider to that already offered at the county level. The department was able to determine the obvious need and viability and met with Wetzel County Emergency Ambulance Authority officials and were able to work-out a Mutual Aid Agreement.

“The County Ambulance Authority had reasonable concerns and fears that it was our intent to try to leverage all of the EMS calls in the New Martinsville Corporate Limits, which would have obviously cut deeply into their ability to generate funds for the support of their operation,” said Couch. “That was never our intent, we simply want to be able to help the sick and injured when we can.”

Beginning in December of 2001, the fire department began the process of writing policies and procedures, and completed all of the WV Department of Health, Office of Emergency Medical Services requirements. Then on April 14, 2002, the department was inspected, received a “Superior Rating” from the Department of Health, and became a licensed EMS agency at 11 a.m., taking its first call that same day in Sistersville, transporting its first patient to Sistersville General Hospital.

The New Martinsville Fire Department recently put this refurbished ambulance in service.

Since that first call the department has transported more than 500 patients to numerous hospitals throughout the region as well as serving in various sporting and community events as the EMS provider.

The department has responded to EMS calls as far away as Burton, near Hundred in extreme eastern Wetzel County, and has transported patients to Wetzel County Hospital, Sistersville General Hospital, Reynolds Memorial Hospital, East Ohio Regional Hospital, Wheeling Hospital, Ohio Valley Medical Center, Fairmont General Hospital, United Hospital Center, and Marietta Memorial Hospital.

“We pride ourselves on quick, efficient response and with the fact that we know the majority of our patients or they know us. We treat our patients with a great deal of respect and dignity, understanding that we may be their attendants during one of the greatest times of need in their life. We want our patients to know that we truly care about them, their injuries or illness and that they aren’t simply another patient with us,” Couch said.

The fire department’s new ambulance is what is referred to in the ambulance industry as a rebuilt unit. The ambulance compartment doesn’t really get “worn out”, but the chassis does, so they remove the ambulance body and place a new chassis under it, making any necessary updates for new standard requirements. This saves a lot of money and time in renewing the unit.

“In our case, we were quoted a new ambulance for a cost of $147,000, but we were able to get a re-built ambulance for $ 69,000 and few would be able to tell the difference between the rebuilt unit and a new ambulance,” Couch said.

The department added several supplemental safety features to the new ambulance in the interest of both responder and patient safety including: supplemental forced fresh air inlets to enhance ventilation and removal of any airborne bacteria; additional front, rear, and side lighting for response and scene safety; video backing camera for backing safety; highest available emission standards for 2008 diesel engines; expanded amount of reflective material exceeding the federal standards for side and rear visibility; and high efficiency LED emergency lighting.

The new ambulance is also equipped with radios that allow full inner-operability with neighboring agencies in other counties and state’s including communications on VHF High Band, VHF Low Band, and UHF 400 Mhz mobile radios.

The new unit has already responded to its first calls, including two calls on Dec. 31. The first call was a smoke scare in a house on Fairview Drive and the second was a car crash in Reader. The first patient was transported in the unit from Pine Grove to Wetzel County Hospital, early New Years Day.

The department needs EMTs or people who would like to become EMTs, anyone interested in becoming a member of the department as either a firefighter or EMT, or both, can go to their Web site, www.fdnm.org, stop by the department’s Ohio Street Station, or contact any member of the department for an application.

“We are an all volunteer department, we pay for the training of our members and encourage members to continue to always enrich their training with response to calls and through continuing education,” noted Couch.