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New ambulances a big hit

| Saturday, Nov. 10, 2012, 1:32 a.m.

Irwin Ambulance's recently acquired new Osage ambulances help emergency responders provide better care and transportation for patients.

“The staff really like them. They like the fact that there's more space,” said paramedic and former operations supervisor Jim McKinnon. “They like the rides. The rides are much smoother than the older trucks. We've gotten a good reception from the patients that know the old ambulances. (The ambulances are) working out very well for us.”

The Osage ambulances have a Ford F450 Super Duty chassis with a box truck build, and the latest technology and equipment available to paramedics and EMTs.

McKinnon said there were many upgrades going from a van-style ambulance to a box truck.

“The van chassis had a limited weight restriction to them,” McKinnon said. “We were tight on what we could do safety wise for weight. These have a much higher weight restriction because it's a bigger, more robust chassis ... On top of that it has heavier braking systems.”

One of the most useful features is a battery-powered stretcher, which lessens the strain on lifters and allows for smoother transportations of patients to and from the ambulance.

The ambulances also have a second-patient transport platform, a hard-wired global positioning system and backup cameras, highly reflective decals, an airbag suspension system and LED lights, which are brighter than previous lights and provide a smaller drain on the electric systems. Other materials are neatly stored.

Irwin Ambulance has 25 emergency responders from paid staff to volunteers. They respond to approximately 80 to 90 calls per month. The new vehicles were put in service on Oct. 9.

Purchasing the ambulances took about two years. Officials went to expos, and spoke with Murrysville Medic One responders who use Osage ambulances to determine if that company would be the right fit for Irwin Ambulance.

“We're hoping to see these trucks last us 10 years at least,” McKinnon said. “There are dozens of ambulance manufacturers throughout the country. We chose to go with this company because of the quality and build of the box, the safety provisions within the box and overall design for what we wanted.”

Irwin Ambulance traded in its 2003 van-style ambulances toward the purchase of the two 2012 vehicles at a price tag of $132,000 each.

Ambulances are being paid for through Westmoreland Hospital Employees Trust Fund, Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency contributions, a 7-year $75,000 loan, and a “significant amount” of money from the defunct Jeannette Hospital Foundation, McKinnon said.

Funds from subscription drives and standard billings will continue to go toward operating costs, not paying for the vehicles, said McKinnon.

McKinnon said the ambulances also are painted with more traditional dark blue colors than the old white and blue ambulances.

“We've been operating continuously for more than 65 years, and the fire department itself has been operating since the 1870s,” McKinnon said. “This has been the tradition. The fire department's vehicles have always been the dark blue.”

Councilors got to see the new ambulances at this month's workshop meeting.

Councilman Bob Wayman said McKinnon did a great job.

Michael DiVittorio is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1965, or