By Bob Vaccaro
Published Wednesday, May 16, 2012
| From the July 2012 Issue of FireRescue
When Joe Pozzo was hired as the new chief of the Volusia County (Fla.) Department of Public Protection (VCDPP) in June 2010, he was given a mandate: Build and create a new model of service for Volusia County.
“We had no funding to keep going with a model that used traditional engines, trucks and squads,” Pozzo says. “We had to come up with innovative technology and vehicles to get the job done.”
Like many other departments around the country, the VCDPP needed to identify cost savings to make up for falling revenues. And that meant changes to the department’s fleet. “We had to come up with a way to reduce our fleet and cut costs and still provide the same services to our population,” Pozzo says.
The Pumper/Ambulance Concept
After a lot of brainstorming, the VCDPP came up with the idea for a pumper/ambulance that could provide more efficient firefighting capabilities and EMS transport in the rural areas of the county. “Some people in the organization doubted the idea, but we thought the concept was thinking outside of the box,” Pozzo says. “When we began the design process, we decided that for it to work, it had to be as close to a traditional fire engine body as possible, with a traditional ambulance body added.”
It took a while to work through the exact specs that would allow the vehicle to serve both firefighting and EMS needs efficiently. To start, the VCDPP contacted Ten-8 Fire Equipment, the local dealer for Braun, which manufactures the Patriot line of vehicles. “We looked at a Patriot that was recently delivered to the West Palm Beach Airport,” Pozzo says. “However, the airport unit had limited fire-suppression capabilities. We wanted a custom fire truck cab with an ambulance body.”
After working with the salespeople and engineers at Ten-8 and Braun, the department settled on a limited water tank with a compressed air foam system (CAFS). “We needed to expand the water capability as much as possible since the vehicle would be first-out in some areas, providing firefighting capabilities as well as EMS,” Pozzo says.
The VCDPP contracted with Waterous to design and build the pump module, which was connected to a 300-gallon water tank and a 30-gallon foam tank. In addition, Braun raised the height of the ambulance box. The units are set up with two crosslays of 1¾" hose and a dead load of 2½" hose for a supply line if needed and they carry the new Hurst E-Draulic cutters and rams. For future units, the department will engineer a rear compartment with stronger shelving to hold 300–400 feet of 3" supply line.
“Braun and Ten-8 were great to work with,” Pozzo says. “They listened to our ideas and worked together with us to make this new concept work for us and the residents of the county.”
The VCDPP uses private contractors to provide EMS transport in its most populated areas, but the service level in the rural areas was lacking. “By using this concept, we could greatly increase the level of care to our residents,” Pozzo says. “However, we needed to get our firefighters better trained in EMS transport. There was some initial apprehension, but for the most part it wasn’t hard to convince them; many jumped all over the idea.”
VCDPP firefighters underwent additional extensive training, including classroom and practical work, ambulance ride-alongs and interaction with local hospitals. All of the training was carefully documented.
The four pumper/ambulances are rotated in the high-volume rural areas of the county; they don’t have permanent stations. Pozzo stresses that the set-up is working well. “We would like to order an additional unit this year,” he says.
In addition to the four pumper/ambulances, the department’s new response model involves combining its heavy-rescue squads into squad-type pumpers. “They are basically Pierce PUC units built on an Arrow XT chassis with 1,500-gpm pumps and 500-gallon tanks, light masts and CAFS capability,” Pozzo says. “One unit is on order and an additional unit is due next year. Also included in this new concept is the combining of our tankers and engines, using Pierce Arrow XT chassis with 1,750-gallon tanks built on a single axle.”
As more U.S. fire departments struggle to stay afloat, thinking outside of the box is an imperative. Rather than resisting change or hiding from its financial problems, the VCDPP openly welcomed the opportunity to reduce its fleet costs and develop a new operating model. Not only was this proactive; it was also a necessity for the county.
Chief Pozzo, his command staff and the Volusia County firefighters should be commended for coming up with new ideas to save money and provide more efficient service to the residents of Volusia County. We could all benefit from this way of thinking.
More about Volusia County
The Volusia County (Fla.) Department of Public Protection provides fire, rescue, first response EMS and specialized advanced and technical support services to unincorporated areas of Volusia County, including the cities of Lake Helen, Pierson and Oak Hill. The department operates with 221 career personnel and 85 volunteers, protecting a population of 551,000 over 932 square miles. Personnel operate out of 21 stations, staffing more than 100 pieces of apparatus.
Volusia County’s new pumper/ambulances are built on 2011 Spartan MetroStar chassis with a 2011 Patriot module and Waterous CAFS. The units can carry 300 gallons of water and 30 gallons of foam. Additionally, there is a hosebed and a large transverse compartment in the cab behind the driver and officer for extra fire and extrication equipment storage.
The ambulance module features custom all-aluminum interior cabinets with Meganite countertops and rounded edge corners. The units also feature Braun’s VitalMax lighting system for shadowless light to aid in patient care, the EZ Glide sliding side-entry door for enhanced crew safety, the MasterTech IV electrical system, and the SolidBody construction.
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