I try to learn something new every day, which sounds significant in theory, but working in news, the goal should actually be closer to at least five new facts daily to make it challenging, in my opinion.
One new fact I learned this week was approximately every 15 years, ambulances have to be replaced. As you can probably guess, the motors get worn out faster than your typical commuter vehicle.
When the Germantown Fire Department had to replace two of its ambulances, it went green, and not in the form of taxpayer dollars.
Instead of purchasing brand-new ambulances, like many departments do.
Fire Chief Gary Weiss used a fact he learned at his previous fire service employment in Florida to his advantage: Worn out ambulances, fire trucks and virtually all other emergency vehicles can be restored to better-than-new quality with a few additions and can lead to tremendous savings in tax dollars.
By recycling the original shell of the ambulance and making some additions, Weiss saved Germantown taxpayers $350,000.
“We’re reusing stuff we already had, so that’s a great thing and we’re saving lots of money," Weiss said.
The last time an ambulance was purchased for Germantown was before Weiss took over as chief; the department spent $300,000 on one new ambulance, but Weiss was able to pay nearly half of that: $127,000. Essentially, two ambulances were purchased for the price of one.
Last year, Weiss also refurbished one of the department's brush trucks, which is used for fires in the woods. Originally, it would have cost $50,000-60,000 to buy new, but by putting in $12,000 to the existing vehicle, the village saved big. Weiss said the truck will be "more than adequate" for the next decade.
"Basically what gets worn out on an ambulance is the motor, cab and the drive train," Weiss said. "The box, or the patient compartment, is usually in good shape, so what we did is take the box off the older ambulance and put a new cab and chassis underneath it. As part of that, they strip all the paint off that and re-paint it, they re-wire it, put new emergency lights on it. It’s basically a new ambulance."
In this idea of recycling old emergency vehicles, Germantown is keeping pace with fire departments several times its size, like the cities of Seattle and Washington, D.C., who not only utilize the idea, but use the same company Germantown went through to do the restorations: North Star Emergency Vehicles. The company has done more than 600 restorations for fire departments across the country.
"North Star did a wonderful job," Weiss said. "The ride is excellent. It’s so much better than our last truck that rode very rough. It’s going to get better fuel mileage; it’s just a win-win for everybody, especially the village.”
According to Weiss, no other emergency vehicles in the department will need to be restored in the near future.
In total, the Germantown Fire Department has four ambulances; two are primary and two are in reserves, and three primary fire trucks with one engine in reserve at Fire Station One.