San Juan Island EMS has just brought home a 2017 gasoline ambulance. You may have seen her making her island rounds gaining new engine miles. This is a huge accomplishment and could not have happened if it were not for a generous donation from long time islander Dodi Gann. A matching gift from the San Juan EMT Association made the purchase possible. With the SJIEMS budget being a hot topic for the last two years, department funding for a much-needed ambulance was not conceivable at the time needed.
The fleet today stands with the oldest ambulance, a 1993 Ford E350/360 (a whopping 24 years old!) being replaced by the purchase. A 1997 Ford E350/360 (20 years old!), a 2001/2002 Ford E350/360 (just a teen at 16 years old) and a used ambulance purchased two and a half years ago, a 2003 Ford E450. Over the years various ailments have plagued these aging advanced life support mobile care units. Along with mileage creeping up, touchy brakes, sluggish engines, insufficient battery banks, electrical issues, come the daily wear and tear associated with asking a big rig to do a lot quickly. Advances in safety, such as improved braking and more efficient electrical systems along with better lighting packages and improvements to the structure and integrity of the van and patient compartment has made replacement of the older units a priority. The comfort and safety of our patients as well as our responders is paramount.
Three of these rigs are staged in town at the 1079 Spring Street station. One as a priority response, the second and third for additional calls and transfers from Peace Health Emergency Room for flights and training. The statistics for a second separate 911 call to be paged out in our small community is close to an astounding 25% keeping these two ambulances busy. A fourth ambulance is staged out at Roche Harbor as a back-up for rigs that are placed out of service for repairs and for volunteers to respond to from their homes at the north end for 911 calls that occur in that area.
An intra-agency ambulance work group was started 3 years ago and was put to bed due to insufficient funding to follow through with a purchase. Two years ago, the group gathered again after SJIEMS received the extremely generous Dodi Gann donation and began specking out ambulances that would best fit our needs and restrictions. Things like ambulance length, easy patient access, storage of large bulky equipment, interior box lighting, maintenance requirements and patient comfort during the ride on our island roads as well as patient and responder safety upgrades were all considered. The decision was made to have Braun NW located in Chehalis, Washington build the ambulance. The letter of intent was signed Feb. 1, 2017 and we took delivery 9 months later. Keeping the fleet identical in appearance inside and out is always a consideration for ease of use for the volunteers who operate these machines as well as the safety of others using the roadway. There are slight changes in look outside and in along with compartments and space, but all would agree these changes can be cheered.
SJIEMS would gladly welcome anyone interested in taking a closer look at this beautiful ambulance. On the side, displayed with pride, is a dedication to Dodi Gann. An open house is yet to be determined. Stop by the station and ask for a tour. A tour is preferred to the alternative 911 response. Stay safe and Happy Holidays!