What do you do with an old ambulance? How about dream big! An ambulance with a simulator for training, a novel idea not only for Blue Ridge and Botetourt County but also western and southern Virginia. “Education,” said the Blue Ridge Squad overview, “is essential to any successful EMS system.”
After 13 years (or 100,000 miles) the volunteer squad looked at options in 2011 with what to do with the retiring ambulance. The decision came to sell the vehicle or figure out how to use it.
Rescue Squad volunteer Colt Hagmaier said a great deal of talk took place amongst the volunteers. One day he was walking his dog and thought, “We could make it it in to a training vehicle with a simulator.”
It is called the “Simbulance Program.” A training ambulance that will travel to various places to help volunteers get the experience they need to handle real life events more efficiently. After being introduced to the EMS community, local, regional and state officials on August 11, it will be ready for the next step: training.
Thus began the process of introducing the idea to the members of the volunteer squad so that it became a ” collective idea.”
“We had a meeting, showed a power point and a video and it passed unanimously,” said Hagmaier.
Along with volunteers Travis Meadow and Brittany Herberger who were on hand to explain the details, Hagmaier explained the process of getting the money together to make the idea a reality. “Former county administrator Jerry Burgess was on board. We started a grant process and applied several places.” Hagmaier said.
First though they went to The Western Virginia EMS Council and the funding took a regional approach. There are 105 EMS agencies in SW Virginia. The Virginia Office of EMS had a grant application that came through. They defended their grant application to the Financial Assistance Review Committee and received 80% of the money to fund the program.
The county has provided 10% and the Blue Ridge Rescue Squad has provided the rest including the vehicle. Countywide, the EMS FARST committee has backed the plan as well.
They put the simulator out to bid and settled on Guarmard Scientific out of Miami, Fla to provide the equipment. Overall the cost is over $110,000.
” We’ve used a lot of different resources. We believe this vehicle will not only provide better training opportunities as a whole for not only, Blue Ridge, Botetourt County, but also southern and western Virginia,” he said.
Ultimately, the innovative thinking of the Blue Ridge Squad will make thousands of Virginia residents safer, and volunteers and others better trained due to the availability of the new Simbulance Program.