Freightliner Bounce

If you’ve read my site for a while, you might know that I’m a member of (and training director for) the Keller Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).  The CERT core mission is to provide people with the skills to know how to prepare for emergency situations and how to react if an emergency occurs.  But beyond that, the mission extends to performing community outreach, education, and service.  In Keller, we have taken on the task of providing firefighter rehab service (we also do fire extinguisher training and can provide preparedness education for anyone who wants it)

Firefighter rehab is a process for providing firefighters with nourishment, hydration, and relaxation during an incident.  Generally, the guidelines call for a firefighter to go to rehab after every second air bottle (IIRC the ones Keller uses are rated for 45 minutes, although they generally only get about 30 minutes out of them, which means firefighters get about an hour of work time on two bottles).  The FD establishes someone on their end who is in charge of tracking firefighter time and is accountable for rehabbing them.  Once that officer decides it’s time, he/she directs the firefighters (usually as a company/group) to the rehab area.  We are responsible for setting up and maintaining the rehab area.

To support our mission, the city has provided us with a truck and the necessary equipment (misters, chairs, tents, coolers, portable “facilities,” etc) .  Several of us (including me) have been through CEVO-II training (the basic course given to ambulance drivers) and carry pagers so that we can respond when called (although they don’t let us use the lights and sirens downer  ).

Up until this weekend, our truck was the old NEFDA bomb squad truck, which is an old Chevy delivery truck:

As far as I know, the city got the truck for free when NEFDA got a new bomb truck.  So the city has been paying for fuel, maintenance, and insurance (which is why they wanted us to take the CEVO class as it helps reduce everyone’s liability).  Some of you who have come to Keller FEST over the past few years may have noticed this black behemoth over by Town Hall.  We generally set up the truck there to provide information and basic first aid.  And we usually set up the misters to help with the heat:

But now that the city has purchased a new ambulance, we have been given the old ambulance to use for rehab and other CERT activities.  The old ambulance is built on a 1999 Freightliner FL50 (I think) chassis (more on this later).  Late last week a number of members met and transferred the equipment to the “new” truck from the old.  Unfortunately, the next day the new truck wouldn’t start.  long face  Murphy will not be denied, though, so of course we had a callout on Saturday for a structure fire.  We had to scramble to transfer the equipment to the old truck and haul ass over to the fire location. 

The firefighters seemed glad to have us there, even if we were delayed, but I was a bit annoyed with the equipment issue. 

After we got back from the fire, we went back to work on the new truck to get it started (it took about an hour of charging to get it back to life), and then drove it around town a bit to charge up the battery (the truck is now on an electrical tether to keep the batteries topped off and to run the systems in the “box”, just like it would have been at the station).  While driving it around we discovered the stories about the old Freightliner ambulance having a really bumpy ride were more than true.  It rides like a bucking bronco, which is probably not good for patients in the back.  And going over a bump or making a turn causes the whole truck to roll in a rather disconcerting fashion. 

The problem the city has faced is finding the right truck chassis to marry to the ambulance “box.”  There are some pretty stringent requirements from the state about what is required to go into an MICU, which drives the size and weight of the box.  So in 1998 when they spec’d the the ambulance they went with the larger truck chassis to handle the weight and for longevity.  The downside is that no matter how they tried tuning the suspension they never could get a smooth ride.  For the new ambulance they’re using a smaller truck chassis (I think it’s an F-450, but haven’t looked closely) for a better ride.

The other thing we learned during our check ride is that while the FD removed the majority of the equipment (radios, etc) they left the driver and passenger air horn foot-pedal switches in place.  If you’ve ever heard a big-rig air horn, you know how loud these things are.  While climbing up into the passenger seat, I accidentally activated the thing (didn’t realize where my foot was) and was wondering why the guy standing next to the truck on the ground was looking at me funny until I figured it out (the horn is surprisingly quiet from inside the truck).  cool grin

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