Temperatures Rise in North Texas Ambulances Leaving Patients, Paramedics in the Heat

If there is one thing we can all agree on, it’s hot, very hot, and no shade tree can come close to the relief from a well-performing air conditioner.

Another indisputable fact is this: If you get sick, like overwhelmed by heat, and need to be rushed to the hospital, you definitely don’t want the A-C to go on the blink in the back of your ambulance.

But that’s exactly what’s happening to about half the front-line fleet of more than 40 ambulances at the Dallas Fire-Rescue Department, NBC 5 Investigates has learned.

In addition, the department has purchased 21 new ambulances, at a cost of $4.2 million, with the same air conditioning systems as those already failing in the 2016 and 2017 ambulances, NBC 5 has found.

Ten of those bright red ambulances have already been delivered, but remain idle in parking lots, without license plates, until mechanics can determine how to fix the problem.

“We are presently experiencing a higher than normal A/C fail rate on the newer series ambulances,” one DFR email said.

That’s a problem, said Sherrie Wilson, a former Dallas firefighter and paramedic that now owns a company that trains paramedics.

“I don’t know if you’ve ever had to do CPR with sweat drooping from your eyes, but it can be very brutal,” Wilson said.

In a statement, the DFR said, “…the temperatures in the rear compartments have been reported as reaching as high as the 80s during the afternoon hours, making it a real challenge for both patient and first responder in the midst of the Texas heat.”

Along with the 2018 models recently purchased, but not put in service, the same air-conditioning systems are in the 2016 and 2017 models, which make up about half the departments front-line fleet.

The department said it has pulled three of those late-model ambulances from the streets, but that others with varying degrees of air conditioning problems continue to pick up patients.

None of the recently purchased ambulances will be activated, the DFR added, and it will not accept delivery of those ambulances that have yet to arrive until the air conditioners are fixed.

“…I will not accept or allow delivery of the remaining units until a solution is found and either a recall or a retro fit is performed on the other units,” one Dallas Fire-Rescue official said in an internal email.

The DFR declined an on-camera interview but said in a statement, “Our maintenance division is currently working with vehicle and equipment manufacturers to resolve this issue, but the problem has yet to be identified.”

The cab and chassis of the ambulances are made by Ford, which, in a statement, said, “the rear cabin air conditioning is not a Ford component.”

The rest of the vehicle, including the patient compartment with the faulty A-C system, is made by a Florida-based company, Rev-Wheeled Coach.

A spokesman for that company told NBC 5 Investigates, “We are in the process of evaluating. We don’t have anything definitive at this time.”

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