By Alan M. Petrillo
Needham (MA) Fire Department has been running Horton Emergency Vehicles ambulances on Type 3 Ford E-450 chassis for several years, but once it built a new station with more roomy apparatus bays, it switched to a heavier-duty Type 1 Horton ambulance built on a Ford F-550 4×4 chassis.
Dennis Condon, Needham’s chief, says the department’s last four ambulances have been Horton rigs. “We’re very happy with the Hortons Type 3s,” Condon notes, “because they are such a reliable, steady product. Our change to the Horton Type 1 on a Ford F-550 four-wheel drive chassis allowed us to get heavier duty rig than the E-450s, and also a bigger box in the back.”
The new Needham advanced life support (ALS) ambulance incorporates the Horton Occupant Protection System (HOPS), says Dick Willis regional ambulance salesman for Greenwood Emergency Vehicles, who sold the Type 1 rig to Needham. “In addition to implementing two types of airbags in the patient module, we also use a progressive foam at head strike points that gradually absorbs energy on impact,” Willis points out. “The two types of airbags that are deployed in a side impact rollover collision are an inflatable head curtain that protects the attendant from the inhalation area cabinet, and a tubular structure airbag that is used with the attendant and CPR seats for additional head protection. Also, all seats are protected by our four-point seat belts that feature a one click, single buckle design.”
Willis notes that the new Needham ambulance also has Horton’s Cool-Tech II™ HVAC (heating ventilating and air conditioning) system with a 100,000-BTU (British Thermal Unit) cooling condenser capacity. “Standard HVAC units provide an average of 30,000 to 60,000 BTUs,” he says. “Testing has shown the Cool-Tech II system to perform a complete module cool down in less than nine minutes, compared to the standard HVAC units that perform the same task in a range of 19 to 22 minutes.”
The Cool-Tech II system consists of a four unit smart fan module that is programmed to engage only when necessary and rotate function to give optimal performance and conservation on the condenser amp draw, Willis says. The system also has an energy efficient solar panel that provides up to 1.2 amps, giving enough power to operate seven LED dome lights and still have surplus to charge the truck batteries. The system also has an ECO smart controller that monitors system performance and sends alert messages to the operator when necessary, and performs system pressure control to adjust fan usage to maintain optimal system operating pressure, reducing wear on the compressor.
Condon points out that Needham had a Stryker PowerLOAD and PowerCOT put into the new rig. “We got an Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) in 2015 when we outfitted two of our Type 3 ambulances with the Stryker PowerLOAD and PowerCOT,” he says. “Then we put it in the budget for our last two rigs, including the new Horton Type 1. In the long term, the system helps with back issues for our medics, lessening those issues. They are good for the medics’ health, and good for the town budget where our medics are not out ill or injured by disability. One of the big things we stress here in Needham is the safety of our personnel and patients, so we try to do anything we can to keep people healthy and from getting hurt.”
Willis adds that other features on Needham’s new Type 1 Horton ambulance include electronic privacy windows, an in-power battery switch, six-inch drop skirts on both the street side and curb side, and a Knox medical drug safe on the back wall of the rig.
Needham is a 12-1/2 square-mile suburb of Boston with a population of 31,000. Needham Fire Department has 79 staff, with 71 of those being uniformed personnel, including 36 paramedics with the balance of the staff being emergency medical technicians (EMTs). The department runs a fleet of four ALS ambulances out of two stations, two of which are staffed full time with the other two in reserve, ready to be stood up if needed.
Condon points out that Needham has 17 line personnel on each shift, with an engine, aerial, ambulance and shift deputy car running from the department’s new main station; and an aerial, engine and ambulance from the substation, all around the clock. “We also send an engine on motor vehicle accident calls and work-related injuries along with the ambulance,” he says, “because you almost always can use extra hands and equipment at those types of scenes.”
ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Ariz.-based journalist, the author of three novels and five non-fiction books, and a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board. He served 22 years with Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including the position of chief.