Tuesday, 27 September 2011

An Epic Purchase - Buying an Ambulance

When is the last time you got to spend $170,000 - of some one else's money?

I used to do it every week - when I ran the payroll. And don't kid yourself, that was the best money ever spent. Any company is only as strong as its employees. Money like that is money well spent.

I'm doing it again. And like the previous five years, it is the best money I will ever spend and it will save lives. Just as paying employees saves lives.

I can't say this is just my effort, but I'm a big part of it and I love every minute of it. I know more about the inner and outer workings of the rigs more than I would ever imagine. There is so much to know - the payload, the electrical load, the safety for the patient, the crew and the town. The continuity for the EMTs, so that we know where everything is. The fuel consumption curve for long standbys. Meeting Triple K requirements. Having duel Whelen sirens and now (and this is the coolest thing!) the Rumbler, a low-sonic add-on to the Whelen sirens that will cut through the boomboxes and cars that have only an audio system that has value. Never again will anyone be able to say, "I couldn't hear the ambulance." With the rumbler, the dead will hear it!

We met with four different dealers/manufacturers of ambulances: PL Custom, Excellance, Horton and Lifeline. All four came out to meet with us and bring a rig with them for us to pick over and test drive. It was interesting to see what technology has brought about in terms of patient care, ease of driving and the ride - each ambulance was given the speed bump test - we took each one to Troy Kills where the speed bumps - killer bumps - are at an angle, so each of the four tires is hitting it, high enough to slow the worst drivers and frequent enough to keep most people crawling through there. We took the first bump at 15mph, the second at 20mph and the final one at 30mph. The true litmus test is the rate at which we could go over those bumps without killing the patient - people with severe back pain have a hard enough time without having to feel every little nook and cranny in the road.

One rig failed that test abysmally - not only did we feel it, but all of us, despite being belted in and weighing a bit more than we should, were airbourne. It was appalling to have my behind leave the seat and reconnect with a resounding THUD! that was painful. When I made the comment that I would need a metal brassiere to survive riding in that rig, the salesmen enthusiastically said, "Yes, it's a tank!" OK... did they think that this was a compliment?

We have narrowed the search down to two companies and met with the first, PL Custom, last week. They are looking at the pictures they took of 66-1, the schematics and the 15 pages of specifics about it. This coming Friday we will meet with Horton and go through the same thing. It will be an experience, as was the last meeting. But fun? You betcha!

So there is a benefit to spending that kind of money - not just the spending, but knowing that you are a part of the effort and sweat and yes, love - that goes into making something of this magnitude. I have an attachment to 66-2, because I learned to drive on that rig. Bob was attached to old 66-3, or Beast, as it was affectionately called, because Beast only started for him. Our ambulances are truly a product of love. We love what we do and it shows in everything we touch.

That is what not just buying, but building, something is all about.

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