Commissioners view custom-built ambulance

By Ryan D. Wilson
Clay County Dispatch – May 6, 2014

Keene Schaaf shows County Commissioner Mike Spicer, left, County Commissioner David Thurlow, right, and EMS Director Marvin Van Blaricon the back of a custom-built Osage ambulance. Click on photo to view full-size image.

Keene Schaaf shows County Commissioner Mike Spicer, left, County Commissioner David Thurlow, right, and EMS Director Marvin Van Blaricon the back of a custom-built Osage ambulance. Click on photo to view full-size image.

On Monday Clay County commissioners and EMS staff looked at a demo ambulance through Osage Ambulances, that was, quite frankly, pretty cool.

EMS director Marvin Van Blaricon said there would be a few things different from the bids specifications for the ambulance he has in mind, but the demo unit was pretty close to what he envisioned. Van Blaricon said he’d like less cabinetry, move the side doors in different places, and a slightly different arrangement inside. But he was impressed by how well the ambulance was constructed, and the lengths the small company took to make the ambulance easy to use, maintain and work on.

County Commissioner Jerry Mayo said the ambulance is “nicely built..”

The tallest EMT employed by Clay County EMS appreciated the 74 inches of height with more headroom from the floor to the ceiling. The ambulance back is also a four inches wider than a typical truck-mounted ambulance.Keene Schaaf, sales representative for Osage Ambulances, described the company as one that wasn’t interested in getting the big contracts. While the company has been in business since 1986, in the last two years it has built its own ambulances.

The company prefers to work one-on-one with smaller ambulance services with orders of one to three ambulances at a time, and custom builds 210 to 250 ambulances in a year.

Customers using their ambulances include Salina, Great Bend Junction and small services like Republic County.

By staying small, the company can focus on providing a quality product and providing better customer service, Schaff said.

The company takes extra steps to correctly build and reinforce a stronger, more durable frame with a box that is sound-proofed, well-insulated and water tight, Schaaf said.

Two-inch foam block sandwiched between two layers of hollow air polymer make up the core of the insulation, which not only thermal insulates for comfort of the patients and passengers, it also makes it better sound-proofed than many ambulances, so EMTS can better hear what patients are telling them inside the ambulance.

“I love our ambulances,” Schaaf. “We build them right. They ride so smooth and it is so quiet.”

The company goes to the trouble to weld seams, which means there is no chance for water to get where it shouldn’t, Schaaf added.

EMS employees noted a ton of storage that was easy to get to with latching/locking systems that were easy to use. The ambulance was well lit on the inside and the exterior. Exterior lights are bright enough to light up a parking lot at night, Schaaf said.

Van Blaricon noted that one particularly nice feature was a cabinet that opened directly to the ambulance’s electrical components. On ambulances they now use, EMTs have to remove doors and panels to get to components that aren’t easy to access.

“The way it’s designed and laid out, it’s designed to be field serviceable,” Schaaf said. “That’s why there are all these access panels, to get in and out of easily.”

There were lots of extras that Van Blaricon said they could do without. For example, instead of spending $3,500 to put in an on-board refrigerator for medication; the ambulance can be designed for a portable refrigerator, about $1,000.

However, one of the extra’s Van Blaricon asked to be included are two on-board cameras to aid in backing, an expense of $1,030.

The demo ambulance that county personnel looked at costs just over $100,000. With the specs that Van Blaricon wants included, he estimates the ambulance bids to come between $100,000 to $115,000.

Osage Ambulances also offers a remounting services that can re-mount old boxes onto new truck chassis, which typically saves about $40,000 compared to the cost of a new ambulance.

Osage remount runs about a $5,000 to $6,000 higher than other services, but that because of the lengths they go to not only remount the box, but also to repaint, refurbish and replace what needs to be on the box, Schaaf said. This service is so popular that it’s backlogged until September, he said.

Van Blaricon said if the county goes with a remount, he’d prefer to use the same company they bought the ambulance through. However, he said he it’s good to know the company offers remount, because they may be able to get more use out of an ambulance bought through Osage Ambulances by remounting instead of replacing it in the future.

Gwen Romine, KSFFA Webmaster

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