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Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One EMS crews gain a valuable tool to help residents in crisis

Technology upgrade for Gig Harbor ambulance

Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One medical officer Geoff North explains the latest technology inside the district’s newest ambulance.
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Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One medical officer Geoff North explains the latest technology inside the district’s newest ambulance.

Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One honored a long-time tradition Tuesday morning by pushing a new medic truck into its new home.

“We actually had one person driving it because it’s not something we could actually push,” Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One EMS Division Chief Calvin Johnson said. “This is a tradition that goes back to when our apparatuses were led by horses. Tradition was that the horse drawn carriages were pushed into place every time you got a new one. So it’s a formal thing.”

Johnson spoke to a small group of 20 crew members, fire commissioners, family and friends.

The new bright red truck, which cost the district between $100,000 to $160,000, gives local emergency medical services crews updated technology and tools to help residents in crisis on the west side of the peninsula near Artondale.

Lt. Geoff North, a medical service officer for Fire & Medic One, gave tours of the new 2018 Ford F-450 ambulance.

“It has a lot of technology and improvements for doing our job,” North said. “We have powered structures on board, we have a powered stair chair. This apparatus has some cameras that give us an idea of what is going on behind us. These are much cleaner-burning vehicles, which is better for us and the environment. So if we are going to a neighborhood in the middle of the night we aren’t waking up everybody when we get there.”

A few other features of the new truck include:

▪ Faster and more accurate mobile data computers updated with digital maps and messaging services for better accuracy while medics are on call.

▪ New storage areas located on the side of truck for quick access to equipment and devices.

▪ New lighting to help emergency crews have better views in the back of the truck while treating patients and victims.

▪ Newer, safer seats for emergency crews which replace the old bucket seats.

▪ Mounting tracks on the walls to keep medical devices stabilized while in use and while the vehicle is moving.

▪ A new power stretcher that can lift up to 1,000 pounds on its own.

▪ An air ride system located in the rear of the truck to help move the stretcher, providing for a smoother ride for the patients and to help ease the work of emergency crews.

The new medic truck was put into service right after the ceremony.

“Hopefully (the first patient) will be awake to enjoy the new truck,” North said.

The fire district has been budgeting to start replacing old medic units in its fleet after recovering from the economic downturn in 2007. The lifespan of a medic unit is short — about two years — or just under 70,000 miles.

Most of our rigs have over 150,000 miles on them. This is the third we put into service in the last three years.

Lt. Geoff North, medical service officer for Gig Harbor Fire & Medic One

“We try to get about three years out of them, maybe more with these new styles,” North said. “Sixty-five thousand miles is when they start to become unreliable. Most of our rigs have over 150,000 miles on them. This is the third we put into service in the last three years.”

North said the district saved money by removing the box portion of the truck where patients are loaded into and placing them onto a new chassis with newer engines.

The lifespan of the new medic trucks is unknown, North said, their second-newest truck is pushing three years, but the crews are hoping to get five or six years of work out of the vehicles before needing replacements.

On Nov. 7, fire district residents voted to approve a levy lid lift for the fire district, with 64 percent of the vote, which reauthorized the fire levy rate of $1.50 for every $1,000 of assessed property value within the district. The lid lift is a blessing for the fire district, which is looking to catch up on much-needed updates to equipment, while also opening up nine new positions in the district for emergency crews.

“Anything like that helps,” North said. “It helps us catch back up to the capital we had to defer for a number of years to prevent layoffs.”

The support of the community and the residents of Gig Harbor are some of the reasons Johnson feels the fire district has seen success. He expressed his gratitude for the new medic truck by thanking the community.

“I want to thank our citizens,” Johnson said. “It has taken quite a bit of manpower to help us do what we do.”

Danielle Chastaine: 253-358-4155, @gateway_danie

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