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March 16, 2017

County dedicates $793,000 worth of new ambulances

These ambulances are much more than a box of steel that runs on diesel fuel. I have witnessed firsthand the magic that takes place in the back of an ambulance. These units will bear witness to lives being saved, families being comforted and children being born into this world.
— County Fire Chief Darren Stevens
Fauquier fire and rescue leaders Saturday afternoon dedicated the first three county-owned ambulances, replacing old volunteer company units with high-tech vehicles designed to improve safety for patients and medics.

The brief ceremony took place March 11 at the Warrenton Rescue building, which also serves as a training center for first responders.

The board of supervisors last April approved the total purchase of $793,443. Custom built on Ford F550 chassis, the four-wheel drive ambulances cost $264,481 each.

“Twenty-five years ago, our department started with three paramedics and three ALS (advanced life support) chase vehicles,” county Fire Chief Darren Stevens told the audience Saturday. “Our role was simple: Get to the scene, stabilize the patient and wait for a volunteer ambulance to transport.

“Over time, the ambulances were driven by other career employees. In 2007, we began 24-hour staffing in the Town of Warrenton, followed closely by Remington and Marshall,” Mr. Stevens continued. “A few years later, we added Catlett, New Baltimore and Upperville to our 24-hour stations.

“What started with a department of three today stands at 82 full-time employees that provide around-the-clock coverage at six stations, 12-hour coverage at two more, two battalion chiefs to keep the ship running smoothly and a dedicated training staff that ensures each of us, volunteer and career, is prepared for the challenges ahead.

“These ambulances are much more than a box of steel that runs on diesel fuel. I have witnessed firsthand the magic that takes place in the back of an ambulance. These units will bear witness to lives being saved, families being comforted and children being born into this world.

“Of course, they will also see the moments that sometimes cause each of us to question why we ever became EMS (emergency medical service) providers. It is those times that I as each of you to remember that EMS is a team sport; lean on each other and support your teammates. Remember that we are a family.

“Putting these units in service today is a major milestone for our department.”

Rodney Greenwood, Local 3762 of the International Association of Fire Fighters president, thanked the board of supervisors, other county officials and Fauquier’s volunteers for working together on the ambulance purchase.

A committee of career and volunteer first responders agreed on specifications for the new units.

“These new ambulances were constructed with the most recent safety enhancements in an effort provide the highest level of safety for all,” Mr. Greenwood said.

“The ambulances you see here today are constructed with a bumper designed to shed the impact of a deer strike, something we all know to be too common in this area,” he explained. “They have LED scene and emergency lighting that improves visibility for our responders and allows the public to see the units from a greater distance. The traffic advisor on the rear of the unit will help to direct traffic when other units may not be available to block and direct approaching vehicles.

“Our responders will be protected by the Horton Occupant Protection System in the patient care area. This system is the only one of its kind that deploys airbags for the occupants of the patient care area should the vehicle be in an accident. Along with the airbags, the HOPS system provides advanced harnesses and internal supporting structures that holds providers in place should such an accident occur.

“The stretcher system from Stryker is of an advanced design to protect the patient and the provider. Unlike older stretcher systems, this one is crash tested and designed to remain mounted to the floor securely in the event of an accident. The harness system keeps the patient in place while the mounting system provides the highest margin of safety and doesn’t allow the stretcher to become a missile.

“The stretcher and load system will help avoid painful back injuries for our responders and it pays for itself by preventing the county from absorbing the enormous cost of treating those injuries. The stretcher system is rated to handle a patient of up to 700 pounds. Along with an integrated child seat, driver and passenger airbags and advanced braking technologies, these ambulances set a new standard for safety for our citizens and responders.”

Justin Clayton, one of the county’s first three career firefighter medics hired in 1992, helped put the new units in service. Mr. Clayton, who has retired, radioed the county dispatch center at 3:20 p.m. Saturday, when the new ambulances officially started work.

The county will deploy them at New Baltimore, Remington and Warrenton — the three busiest stations. In future years, more new ambulances will replace older units, standardizing the vehicles and taking some fund-raising pressure off volunteers, according to Mr. Stevens.
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