New ambulance added to district inventory

Weiser Ambulance Director Luke Smith describes the various pieces of equipment that will be added to the new ambulance. Photo by Philip A. Janquart
Philip A. Janquart
 It was two years in the making, and extreme weather threatened further delay.
The Weiser Ambulance District nonetheless recently received a special delivery that rounds out its fleet of ambulances.
 “We are stoked!” Director Luke Smith said last week as he circled around the district’s newest addition.
 He has reason to be grateful because the ambulance was supposed to arrive over a year ago and delivery could have been put off indefinitely. Carrie Eshelman of Sawtooth Ambulances in Montana, however, volunteered to drive it to Weiser between two winter storms that pummeled portions of the nation in recent weeks.
 There was a window of opportunity between the storms and Eshelman wasted no time.
 “They knew what was coming and said if they didn’t do it now, we’d probably be waiting another few months,” Smith said. “There was a break, so she and her husband drove it here in a day.”
The Ambulance
 The new, two-wheel drive ambulance, which was assembled in Indiana, was built around a Ford 450 frame and weighs, when loaded with equipment, in the neighborhood of 16,000 pounds. Other specialty equipment, including a cot, or gurney, as some people refer to it, needs to be installed before the vehicle is cleared for service. The district is currently waiting for the new Stryker brand cot to arrive.
 “It has liquid suspension,” Smith said of the ambulance, adding that the ability to raise and lower the vehicle is meant to assist in loading and unloading patients.
 No tax dollars were utilized for the purchase, funding coming from an Idaho Department of Commerce grant. Cost for the ambulance was approximately $215,000, according to Smith.
 “That’s actually pretty cheap because I just did another quote for a grant to replace another ambulance in the next five years, and we are sitting at about $250,000 to $300,000,” he said.
 Getting a grant is a long enough process, but final assembly and delivery added significantly to the total time it took to finally receive the vehicle.

 “It was about six months for the grant process, but the order itself has taken time,” Smith said. “Delivery was supposed to be in August 2021, but we just got it. People who are ordering ambulances right now probably Weiser Ambulance District waited for two long years for vehicle to arrivewon’t get them until 2025.”

 Smith said the prolonged wait is due to labor and difficulty in getting parts. In the district’s case, it was a computer chip.
 “That was the hold up,” he said. “None of the HVAC or the electronics worked on this. They had to wait for the computer chip.”
 The impact of COVID is one reason for the delay, but the ever increasing use and evolution of computer chip technology is to blame for the imbalance in supply and demand, which has led to waiting lists on many electronic products. The situation has affected everything from smartphones to cars and every gadget in between.
 All four of the vehicles in the district’s fleet are fairly new, but if Smith wants to replace another one in the future, he must act now, which is exactly what he is doing. 
 Ambulances log an extraordinary number of miles in a year compared to your average daily driver, Weiser’s rigs amassing around 600 to 700 miles per week, according to Smith. 
 “It’s not uncommon for them to go to the shop because they are big and heavy, and we burn through brakes, transmissions, and axles all the time,” he said. “It happens because there is so much weight and they are almost loaded to the max by the time you put in the cot, equipment, and maybe two firefighters, so driving these things is no joke.”
 It all means staying ahead of the curve and initiating the grant process as soon as possible, a process that is already underway at the Weiser Ambulance District. 
 Smith said he anticipates putting the new ambulance into service in the coming weeks.
 “We’ve got to set up the equipment to a certain standard because there are so many things you have to put in it to make sure you are prepared for every call, and the state sets those requirements,” he said.
Other Grants
 The Weiser Ambulance District also recently bought new medical/trauma bags that were likewise purchased through a grant – this one for about $6,000 through the Idaho Bureau of EMS. 
 The medical bags hold various medications, IV equipment, crash bags, stethoscope, airway equipment, and other items, and can weigh up to 70 pounds.
 “We went with the low weight bags that are probably half the weight and are the backpack format,” Smith said. “A lot of the rural areas we go into, we have to walk a hundred yards or more, or get into an area with search and rescue with their four-wheelers, so with the new bags, we can just put them on our backs and go.”
 Medical bags can cost between $350 and $700 per bag.
 “As our population continues to grow, we’re taking the steps to meet our future needs,” Smith said.


Signal American

18 E. Idaho St.
Weiser, ID 83672
PH: (208) 549-1717
FAX: (208) 549-1718

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