School bus to be converted to disaster reponse vehicle

Saturday, March 10, 2007

The bus was purchased from the Scott City School District.

The recent purchase of a 1989 Bluebird school bus from the Scott City School District by the North Scott County Ambulance District proved to be a win-win situation.

Earlier this year, the school district accepted the ambulance district's bid of $2,500, which was more than superintendent Diann Bradshaw-Ulmer had hoped for in selling or trading in the retired vehicle.

The ambulance district obtained an affordable vehicle to convert into a mass casualty and disaster response vehicle, said Jeff Curnell, emergency medical technician with the district.

Curnell said he got the idea from Stoddard County Ambulance District, which had converted a bus from the same year into an effective disaster relief vehicle about five years ago.

"Basically, what this will be is a great big ambulance with the capability of a command center," he said.

All but six of the bus' 26 seats will be removed to make room for a command center and area for transporting patients, he said. It is hoped the conversion will be completed by summer.

Larry Chasteen, district administrator, said a fully outfitted disaster unit such as the one Sikeston, Mo., has can run as high as $350,000.

"We're trying to develop some disaster preparedness," Chasteen said. "This gives us another tool to use to support ourselves a little bit better. It's a step in the right direction."

Chasteen is looking for community volunteers to help get the bus ready, particularly with paint preparedness and painting the outside of the bus, electrical work, generators, radios, air conditioners and cabinetry.

He said the money to buy the bus came from the district's general capital purchase fund, which had been built up for such a purpose.

The purchase was a boost for the school district, Bradshaw-Ulmer said.

"I'm really excited about it, it's a really nice idea," she said. "I think they got a pretty good deal. I hope they never have to use it, but it's nice to know its available if there's a disaster."

Bradshaw-Ulmer said each year the school district tries to replace an old bus. North Scott County's bid was the highest for the 1989 bus with 110,000 miles on it, more than the usual bids when buses are advertised for sale.

"The extra money is going to pay for a new bus," she said.

Chuck Casting, assistant manager of the Stoddard County Ambulance District, said the converted school bus it uses has been a valuable asset to the community and surrounding areas that need help.

Casting said the district's share of the bus, purchased from a local car dealership, was about $3,800. The district obtained federal grant money for its share of the cost.

Stoddard County outfitted the bus with a communications center, a conference area and first aid area, he said.

He said the vehicle has been used several times since it was converted into a disaster response vehicle, in particular in the Caruthersville, Mo., and Jackson tornadoes and locally for fire standbys several times.

"It worked very well," he said. "It gives those controlling the scene a place to meet to plan a course of action and rehabilitation, especially on fire standbys where first aid is dispensed."

Casting added the vehicle is available for any agency that has a need for it and has been used in Bollinger County and for public relations events.

carel@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 127

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