Miramar, Florida Fire-Rescue Goes High-Tech With Ambulances

Miramar has something the rest of the world doesn't.

Prototype, state-of-the-art Freightliner M2 ambulances.

The two vehicles, which respond to emergencies and transport patients, are slightly bigger and give rescuers more technology. They each have television monitors, a larger area for patient care and two areas to store temperature-sensitive medications.

"The benefits of these units are twofold. First of all, the vast improvements to the patient-care area allow for a better work flow when paramedics are caring for critical patients," said Bill Huff, division captain of emergency medical services.

Second, Huff said, they benefit the department by improving the safety of rescue crews.

" ... [Crew] members [can also] decide where and how things such as equipment are accessed so as to limit their need to expose themselves to dangerous situations such as standing in a lane of traffic to retrieve a piece of equipment from a compartment," Huff said.

Miramar Fire-Rescue handles about 8,000 calls a year.

Two years ago, it started to work with American LaFrance Medicmaster on the design of the vehicles, which cost $163,000 each.

"These are $180,000 trucks and Miramar got a deal because it was the first deal," said Bob Ivey, the company's Florida sales manager.

The vehicles have four-door cabs to give four rescuers the room to sit in the front. Each seat is equipped with headphones, a breathing apparatus, and a place to store uniforms.

The monitors let the driver see the patient and also serve as a rear-view mirror.

"When driving to a hospital and trying to perform an invasive procedure, it is important to know [what is being done to the patient], so they can make adjustments to their driving in a way that won't disturb the paramedic or a patient," Huff said.

In older ambulances, paramedics had one-sided access to patients, but a larger back area now allows paramedics to treat patients on either side. The new vehicles are 4 inches taller at 10 feet, 8 inches, and about 5 feet longer at 29 feet.

"The biggest difference is that it makes things more convenient for us," said Lt. Michelle Popek, a firefighter/paramedic in Station 84. "The person in the back can help me find an address or report, they can assist easier. Our gear is now stored within our seats and that will save a lot of time responding to fires ... "

Other added features: a small refrigerator and a warming plate, which the rescue crew can use to store temperature-sensitive medications.

The two trucks replaced two older units that respond out of two sites, Station 84, at Miramar Parkway and Interstate 75, and Station 70, at Miramar Parkway and Douglas Road.

The ambulances were ordered in June 2002 and the department received them in November 2003. The delay was due to engineering problems, Huff said.

The trucks, purchased through the Fire Department in the 2001-02 city budget, were put in use in December.

"I am very excited about having these trucks in the city of Miramar," Huff said. "It's always been the goal of our Fire-Rescue Department to provide the very best of care with state-of-the-art equipment, and I feel that these trucks provide this to our citizens."