A new piece of equipment at the Washington County/Johnson City EMS is something officials there hope they’ll never need, but if there is a mass casualty disaster here, the agency now has a way to transport multiple patients at one time.
It’s called an Ambu-Bus, which is a smashed-up name for an ambulance bus. EMS Executive Director Dan Wheeley said the transport unit can carry 12 to 20 patients at a time.
The Ambu-Bus was mostly funded through a state grant that provided the stretcher system now inside a donated school bus.
“The state contacted us and said they had the kits to equip a bus” as a multi-patient transport unit, EMS Maj. Brad Gerfin said. All EMS had to do was come up with a bus. He contacted the county, and in a short time had a promise from the Washington County School System of a bus that was being taken out of service.
“They were willing to provide us with the bus,” and most of the labor to refurbish the vehicle was donated, Wheeley said. EMS purchased the paint and agency decals while Brooks Collision donated the time to paint it. EMS personnel tore out the old bus seats and installed the Ambu-Bus transport system.
“When you think of one ambulance for everyone one of these beds … we don’t have 12 ambulances” to send to a scene, Gerfin said. “When you have a mass casualty where you have to transport a lot of people at the same time … it’s going to take the burden off the system.”
The bus would not be used for critical patients, Gerfin and Wheeley said. Those patients would be transported by a single ambulance or by air, if needed.
“You don’t want critical patients on here. It’s set up to haul 12 stretcher patients and eight ambulatory patients. Ideally, it’s for evacuations,” Wheeley said.
The bus is an asset for the eight county Northeast Tennessee region and can be used at any kind of large event, such as the races in Bristol, Fun Fest in Kingsport or the many events in Washington County and Johnson City where there is potential for a large number of people being injured at the same time.
“We hope we never have to use it,” but it’s good to have this kind of equipment available, Wheeley said.
The Ambu-Bus will be on display today and Friday at the 18th annual Northeast Tennessee Emergency Medical & Rescue Conference being held at the Holiday Inn in Johnson City.
That conference will feature presentations from local physicians and first responders about updates in emergency procedures and the equipment responders face and use in the field. For more information about the conference, visit www.ems.org and click on the conference link at the top of the webpage.