Ambulances expected to cut response time

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 1, 2000

Paramedic Ben Hawthorne gives a tour of the inside of the ambulance in which he works. (The Vicksburg Post/PAT SHANNAHAN)

Four new ambulances in Vicksburg are expected to save critical seconds of response time when they come online early next year.

“Sometimes we can have three, four or five separate runs at the same time,” Fire Chief Kevin Westbrook said. “It only lasts a couple of minutes, but there have been times when we would have a call and have no ambulance to send out.”

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The new ambulances will be Type III units, the largest made, with advanced life support equipment such as cardiac defibrillators and vital-signs monitors.

“These are basically like a small emergency room,” Westbrook said. “The only thing you don’t have is a doctor.”

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen began the process of requesting bids for the ambulances Monday. They are expected to cost $60,000 to $70,000 each.

The city has three of the large ALS units, along with two backup units and two smaller ambulances used mainly to transfer patients among hospitals and nursing facilities.

But the three front-line units are beginning to show wear and tear after three or four years of hard driving, the chief said.

While the vehicles have only about 40,000 miles on each of them, those miles are under the worst possible conditions, he said.

“We go from dead stop to driving all out on an emergency call,” he said. “They look good on the outside, but the engines are just about worn out.”

Vicksburg Fire Department personnel make about 10,000 ambulance runs each year. While fire units are confined to the city limits, longstanding agreements extend fire department-based ambulance and rescue services countywide.

The new units will bring Vicksburg’s total number of ambulances to 11. When the new ones arrive, the current front-line units will be placed in reserve, and the older units may eventually be sold as surplus property, Westbrook said.