Monday, Sept. 25, 2023 |
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Five of the seven new ambulances received by the county. (courtesy photo/ special to west hawaii today)
Seven new ambulances are joining Hawaii County’s emergency vehicle fleet after years of COVID-19-related delays.
Five new ambulances will be dedicated at a ceremony today in Hilo, which, along with two other ambulances that were dedicated for use earlier this year, will replace seven older vehicles across the county’s 16 ambulance stations.
The new vehicles were commissioned years ago, but only recently were delivered to the island following the global supply chain issues that accompanied the pandemic.
“Every fiscal year, we budget for one to three new ambulances, depending on our needs,” said Fire Department EMS Captain Mike Lam. “But because of the supply chain issues, they’ve taken awhile to be finished. Ford just didn’t have the chassis ready for a long time.”
Eventually, Lam said the county was able to secure the first two of the seven vehicles “because we just couldn’t wait anymore.” Lam noted that other ambulances ordered by the City and County of Honolulu also have been delayed, and credited Hawaii County’s regular check-ins with the vehicle manufacturers for getting the order completed.
The ambulances each cost an estimated $250,000, for a total price tag of roughly $1.75 million, Lam said.
“The main differences between the new ones and what we have now is mainly that they have additional safety features,” Lam said. “Obviously, when we get newer vehicles, they’re meeting the most recent safety standards.”
For example, Lam said that newer ambulances have more robust locking mechanisms to keep gurneys in place in the event of a vehicle rollover.
Other new features might be less popular for some. Lam said that modern ambulance sirens have a more penetrating sound, reaching frequencies that can be detected from inside other cars more easily.
He explained that modern vehicles are more effective at blocking outside sounds, including sirens, which can hinder emergency vehicle response times.
“We’re proud of having these on the island,” Lam said. “We want to make sure that our communities are being served by state-of-the-art equipment.”
Lam said the ambulances will be stationed across the island — five at stations in East Hawaii, and the other two in West Hawaii.
“They’ll be replacing seven of our front-line ambulances,” Lam said. “But those vehicles that are replaced will be evaluated, and we’ll decide what to do with them based on that. Maybe they’ll still be usable as (backup) vehicles, or maybe they can still be used in some other way.”
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