Pleasant Valley Community Volunteer Fire Company's new Ambulance 6-9 is almost a miniature hospital.
It carries a full complement of medical equipment and drugs that ambulance technicians use to stabilize patients until they can be transported to the hospital.
The new ambulance, which has a 1994 Freightliner cab and chassis and an Excellance custom-built patient compartment, was put in service April 15.
"We usually figure on replacing the ambulances every 10 years," said Charlie Lookingbill, Pleasant Valley's ambulance captain. "This replaces a 1977 Ford Horton that was refurbished in 1987."
The fire company received the $140,000 vehicle in February, but factory and other problems delayed its entry into service until nine days ago, when company members transferred equipment from the old ambulance to the new one and the vehicle passed a county inspection.
Former Ambulance Capt. Wendy Bowersox did most of the legwork for getting the new ambulance, Mr. Lookingbill said. She visited fire equipment shows, studied specifications and drafted the order for the ambulance.
"The main thing we were after was increased cabinet space so we can carry a lot more equipment," Mr. Lookingbill said. "We also have a hands-free communication system. The driver and the medical technician use headsets with microphones to talk to each other."
The patient compartment is arranged so two patients can be transported and attended comfortably. The stationary patient bench lies crosswise directly behind the cab. The portable stretcher has a center mount that can be moved to the side of the compartment, if necessary.
An additional seat for two-person cardiopulmonary resuscitation folds against the wall on one side near the stationary bench.
The patient compartment also holds a cellular phone, storage areas that are accessible from inside and outside, low-level Krystel lights that illuminate the interior for patient comfort and technician visibility, and adjustable supply shelves with sliding glass doors that raise for easy stocking.
Storage space was increased to accommodate a large, refillable oxygen tank and a rack for six air cylinders. The oxygen system is electric with automatic readings for the technicians.
The ambulance carries five boards for handling patients -- three for trauma, a scoop stretcher for injuries where minimum patient movement is required and a thumper board for people who need CPR.
Separate compartments hold technicians' gear.
"The exterior has a traffic adviser -- directional arrow signals for traffic to go around the ambulance," Mr. Lookingbill said. "Mounted on the rear are telescoping quartz lights that can be raised and moved around 360 degrees to light up the scene."
Another safety feature is on-the-spot tire chains that release at the touch of a button in bad weather.
To help the technicians put patients into the ambulance and take them out, the back of the compartment automatically lowers when the doors are opened so the stretcher can be pushed into the ambulance instead of lifted. When the doors are closed, the compartment returns to normal height.
The cab features a telescopic steering wheel; air-ride, fully adjustable seats; electric, heated side mirrors; and FM radio for nonemergency transports to help relax patients.