This week the Hazlet First Aid welcomed a brand new ambulance that will make responding to emergency calls safer and easier for the all-volunteer squad. Patients will also benefit from state-of-the-art features that enhance patient care at critical moments.
The new 2019 F550 Type 1 ambulance is also equipped with 4 wheel drive to help the squad make lifesaving trips through snow and mud, a first for the squad's fleet.
But the ambulance’s most important feature is that it is designed to prevent the potential for COVID-19 exposure during calls – something that was missing in the 1983 rig it replaces.
"CDC guidelines recommend that ambulances have isolated driver compartments," said Mayor Tara Clark. "The new ambulance will provide a safer environment for both patients and our First Aid responders. Our exceptional volunteer emergency responders have seen a significant increase in COVID-19 related calls this year. The new rig will be a wonderful addition."
First Aid Chief Stephen Schmidt said, “The old ambulance that we are retiring didn’t have a barrier between the front driver compartment and the patient care compartment. So now we have that. There is a wall and a window that closes."
Exposure to COVID-19 can have a devastating impact on the volunteer squad because it can result in quarantine or even illness, reducing the numbers of responders available in an emergency. It also can affect a volunteer’s personal life and result in lost wages at work.
The new vehicle will make patient transport physically easier for the duty crew responding to emergencies. The truck automatically lowers six inches when the rear doors are opened, which helps the volunteer place a patient in the back.
First Aid Captain Jennifer McKay believes this a great feature. “I’m five feet tall, so the fact that the truck kneels for me is huge,” she said. “It ends up being lower than other trucks. It makes it a lot easier to get the patient into the truck.”
The squad also has acquired two back-saving Stryker power lift stretchers for patient transport. The patient lifts can be easily operated by a volunteer who may lack the strength to move heavier people.
Inside, the new ambulance is more spacious, with higher ceilings, and it offers more room for medics and volunteers. It has smooth surfaces for better sanitation, five point safety harnesses for volunteers, a child seat and LED lighting.
The new truck is currently being stocked at the Leocadia Court building, known as Unit 1. Volunteers are being trained on how to drive the slightly longer vehicle. In coming days, it will be used to respond to emergencies throughout Hazlet’s 5.5 square miles from the Maple Drive building, known as Unit 2.
The ambulance will be featured in the Bike with a Bunny Parade on Saturday, March 27 in Hazlet. It will also be the centerpiece of the squad’s 75th anniversary celebration this fall.
The squad welcomes volunteers. To learn more, visit HazletFirstAid.org.