Hawkins EMS receives ambulances

Members of the Hawkins County Commission and visitors discussed two refurbished Hawkins County EMS ambulances. The ambulances have a power load system.

Hawkins County EMS Director Jason Murrell invited Hawkins County Commissioners and those in the audience at Monday’s commission meeting to see the two newest members of the EMS fleet.

The ambulances are welcome additions to a fleet that has to make long runs to Johnson City and Kingsport to emergency rooms.

A new ambulance was added through a grant. Another, less costly, option was also used as a “box,” the back part of an ambulance that carries the patient, was refurbished from an existing ambulance and remounted onto a 2020 Chevrolet chassis.

“This box was on a 2003 Ford van chassis that had very high mileage,” Murrell said. “It cost a lot to keep it maintained and on the road. What we did is we found a remount facility in Shelbyville. They took the box off the old chassis.”

Hawkins County approved to have two remounts done for ambulances in the HEMS fleet, saving up to $275,000.

In Shelbyville, the company sanded and stripped the box, added new lighting, removed the diamond plating, door seals and doors. The company redid everything, including the seating inside, which was reupholstered, repainted and new seat belts installed.

Just like a new ambulance, a power load system for stretchers, was included along with power stretchers.

“They set (the box) down on the chassis, wire it up and say ‘come get it,’” Murrell said.

The cost of the remounted ambulance was $157,000. The second remounted ambulance will be paid for with remaining county funds, but EMS will put money with that to accomplish completion of it.

“We got the power load to save (EMS personnel’s) backs,” he said.

This makes a total of 11 ambulances on the road, including some ambulances that will have to come off the road due to mileage and maintenance issues.

“The ones these replaced we put in reserves/back-up status in case one has to go into the shop for some reason, or for warranty work,” Murrell said. “We’ll still have a decent truck to respond in. As long as your box is good, you’re okay.”

The hold-up on some remounts are the availability of chassis for use.

“You can have all the boxes you want, but they can’t get a chassis,” Murrell said.

Meanwhile, the second ambulance on display was the second ambulance obtained with grant funding earlier this year. The new ambulance includes the power load system.

“That is the second ambulance we received in the last four years on a grant,” Murrell said. “The grant is through the (Federal Emergency Management Agency) Assistance to Firefighters Grant. With our population size of our county, we have a 10% match on it.”

The ambulance would cost $200,000 new, but Hawkins EMS was able to get it for the 10% match of $20,000,

“That isn’t bad to fork out $20,000 for a $200,000 ambulance,” he said.

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