Frisco is the first North Texas City to receive a giant, new tool to respond to large-scale emergencies and major events. And the city plans to share it with the rest of North Texas. It's called an ambulance bus and it's as big as it sounds.
A fire department can send several ambulances in an emergency, but now Frisco can deploy a 41-foot-long ambulance that has the body of a bus.
"When we're going to help do evacuations or maybe move a nursing home during a power outage or something like that, it allows us to do that with a similar number of people but certainly a lot less space taken up with the vehicles," said Cameron Kraemer, Frisco Fire Department's training division chief. "It certainly offers one more vehicle, one more tool in our toolbox to be able to take care of the citizens of Frisco."
The ambulance bus is like a hospital on wheels. The city said it does the job of 10 regular ambulances.
The bus can carry six paramedics and up to 20 patients on portable stretchers and gurneys with wheels. Seats fold out for patients that need to sit up rather than lie down. Wheelchairs can be secured to the floor.
"It's completely reconfigurable to meet the needs of the mission," said firefighter-paramedic Scott Vetterick. "It's nice to know that it's there and it's available. We hope we don't have to use it."
A cardiac monitor/defibrillator and five wireless vital sign monitors allow paramedics to send critical information to their commander.
The bus is loaded with oxygen tanks to treat as many as 30 people. And when paramedics travel to help other cities, two-way radios let them communicate with hospitals across the region.
The bus has a price tag of $430,000 and is paid for by state funds. The North Central Texas Trauma Regional Advisory Council chose Frisco as a recipient.
Sherman is the only other Texas city with an ambulance bus. Other cities, including Houston and Austin, are looking into it.
Saturday evening, Frisco paramedics took the ambulance bus to Austin to showcase it at a statewide EMS conference.