The Chicago Ridge Fire Department recently received a Department of Homeland Security grant that will allow them to purchase a new ambulance equipped with a battery-powered stretcher, which will reduce firefighter injuries.
Fire Chief Robert Muszynski said the ambulance will be a good investment for the department. The $214,533 grant will cover 95 percent of the cost of the ambulance, and the department will pick up the other 5 percent, about $11,291.
The battery powered stretcher and oxygen bottle loader on the ambulance will help firefighters, Muszynski said. The department currently has one other ambulance with a battery-powered stretcher. The stretchers are capable of holding up to 750 pounds.
“The old stretchers, you have to lift manually, and you need at least two people to lift it up and load it into the ambulance,” Muszynski said. “It wears on guys’ backs, and when you are lifting patients on it, some can be fairly heavy. Over the years, they develop back issues from the constant stooping and bending. With the battery operated stretcher, you just push a button and the stretcher raises and lowers itself. It is a heavier-duty cot, and it saves the guys’ backs. There is no twisting your body to put the stretcher into the ambulance.”
The department has had no firefighter injuries in the last two years, but prior to that, injuries were not uncommon, Muszynski said. The department has 19 paid firefighter/paramedics and 12 part-time on-call firefighters.
Oxygen bottles can weigh up to 100 pounds, and loading it into the ambulance can be tricky, Muszynski said. The oxygen bottle loader will pick up the bottle and put it into a compartment inside the ambulance.
Muszynski said battery-powered devices in ambulances are becoming more and more common. The Bridgeview Fire Department also has battery powered stretchers.
The department currently has three ambulances, and Muszynski intends to get rid of the two oldest ambulances when the new ambulance is purchased. The oldest is 17 years old, and the other ones are 12 and 13 years old. An ambulance is considered old when it has been in use for 10 years, Muszynski said. The department did 2,400 ambulance runs last year.
“We’ll only have two, and we’ll use one for ambulance runs,” Muszynski said. “The other one will be kept in reserves in case one breaks down. It will reduce our fleet, which will reduce our maintenance costs.”
The old ambulances will go to the Chicago Ridge Emergency Management Agency, which works with the village’s police and fire departments. One will be used as a traffic vehicle to carry lights and cones; and the other will be used as a mobile command post.
“If we have a large scale incident, like a large fire, flood or tornado, it will be a mobile command post — like an office with radios and cameras,” Muszynski said.
The Emergency Management Agency is looking for grants to cover the cost of retrofitting the ambulances, Muszynski said.