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EMS officials defend Dodge Durangos

EMS officials say the Dodge Durangos they use as Quick Response Vehicles are the most cost-efficient and durable option for the county.
Recently, some questions have been raised by residents regarding the cost and use of the Durangos. The vehicles were given attention during county commissioners’ budget talks. And some residents have questioned whether the Durangos are wasting taxpayers’ money and being used as luxury vehicles.
“They think we’re driving around with $38,000 to $40,000 trucks,” said EMS Director Ron Rombs said.
That, EMS officials say, isn’t the case.
The SUVs have 4-wheel drive, V8 engines and basic features and are purchased under state contract for about $20,000 each. The same vehicle if purchased at a dealership would cost about $38,000, Rombs said. The $20,000 is well below the cost of a new ambulance, which is about $94,000.
The Durangos, Rombs said, help the agency provide the best service it can to the county.
EMS currently has three QRVs and has asked for another in the county’s 2004-05 budget to replace a Crown Victoria, Rombs said.
He said the low cost, durability and ability to put a paramedic quickly on the scene of an emergency are advantages of the QRVs.
Besides the low purchase price, Rombs said maintenance on the Durangos is minimal.
“They’re absolutely maintenance free, except for routine service (like oil changes),” Rombs said.
It’s also another step toward fleet standardization, which is beneficial when dealing with maintenance, he said.
The QRVs, which are stationed strategically around the county, allow EMS to get an equipped paramedic on the scene of an emergency quicker than an ambulance, he said.
Training Coordinator John Watts said about five minutes can be shaved off response time by using QRVs. That’s because the vehicles aren’t as big and bulky as ambulances and are able to maneuver through traffic more easily.
“It’s the most cost-efficient way to put an equipped paramedic there to cover the area and let an ambulance come behind them,” said Rombs.
The Durangos can also go places ambulances can’t.
In more rural areas of the county, it’s common to encounter dirt roads, some of which are impassable for ambulances.
The road leading into the Trinity Farms area — a bumpy, washed-out road with steep inclines and deep ditches — is impossible for an ambulance to navigate, Watts said. There are about 75 homes in the development.
The 4-wheel drive QRVs, however, can travel down the road. They can also go through fields and travel well in icy conditions, unlike ambulances.
And they’re fully equipped. QRVs carry heart monitors, medications, backboards and all other necessary equipment.
“You name it, we have everything an ambulance has,” Watts said.
By using a QRV, an equipped paramedic can access a patient in a remote area, stabilize him and even transport him to an awaiting ambulance, Rombs said.
In an emergency situation, every minute is crucial, Watts said, and the Durangos help save time.
“Time is muscle,” he said. “When someone’s having a heart attack, time is muscle, and these things are used to save that muscle when we can’t get to them with an ambulance.”by Alice Smith

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