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Ambulance service's new rig boasts extra safety features

The service's first ambulance was a hearse donated by a funeral home in 1970

By Emily Balser
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

LEECHBURG, Pa. — Lower Kiski Ambulance Service has come a long way since its first ambulance — a hearse — was donated by Clawson Funeral Home in 1970.

“That's how this ambulance service started,” said board President Daniel Kupas. “The two funeral directors in town were no longer going to provide that service — it's kind of evolved from there.”

Before today's emergency response teams, funeral homes largely provided the transportation for emergencies with their hearses. No treatment was provided.

Times have changed for emergency response services over the last few decades, and Lower Kiski Ambulance is making sure it's up to date on advancements in the field.

This year, the service bought a new ambulance that's designed to be more visible and has new safety features for patients and medical workers.

The service changed the color from their traditional gold to a bright green.

“Fluorescent green colors stand out a lot at a great distance,” Kupas said. “That's going to jump out even before (emergency) lights.”

Chief Gary Cockroft said ambulance services are moving away from using emergency lights for every call to improve the safety of medical workers and patients, so the green will ensure they are still seen easily.

Cockroft said lights and sirens are only being used for the most severe emergencies such as a trauma call, cardiac arrest or shooting.

But most of the calls they respond to are things like falls or someone experiencing pain.

Also new with this ambulance is safer seating for EMTs and paramedics that secures them in place and a safety feature to keep the stretcher from shifting while the ambulance is moving.

“It's going to help out immensely,” Cockroft said.

The new ambulance cost about $180,000 plus an additional cost of stocking it with medical supplies.

Cockroft said the average life expectancy for an ambulance is only about three to four years. They can rack up more than 300,000 miles in that time.

The service responded to nearly 3,200 calls in 2016 in Allegheny Township, Gilpin, Hyde Park, Leechburg and West Leechburg.

Kupas said that number has grown from just 500 calls in 1970.

Kupas and Cockroft both began as volunteers with the service when they were just teenagers.

They hope they can find young people who want to continue the legacy, something they say has become harder and harder because of low wages, the high cost of training and the demanding nature of the work.

“We are very proud of our heritage and stability over the 47 years of emergency medical service to the citizens of our communities,” Kupas said.

Copyright 2017 The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
All Rights Reserved

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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