San Juan Island EMS replaces 24-year old ambulance

  • Tue Dec 12th, 2017 7:00am
  • News

Submitted by San Juan Island EMS

San Juan Island Emergency Medical Services just brought home a 2017 gasoline ambulance. This is a huge accomplishment and could not have happened if it were not for a generous donation from long-time islander Dodie Gann. A matching gift from the San Juan EMT Association made the purchase possible. With the SJIEMS budget being a hot topic for the last two years, department funding for a much-needed ambulance was not conceivable at the time.

The purchase will replace the department’s oldest ambulance, a 1993 Ford E350/360, which is 24 years old. There is also a 1997 Ford E350/360, which is 20 years old; a 2001/2002 Ford E350/360, which is 16 years old; and a used ambulance purchased two and a half years ago, which is a 2003 Ford E450.

Over the years, the fleet has experienced issues. Along with mileage creeping up, touchy brakes, sluggish engines, insufficient battery banks, electrical issues also come with the daily wear and tear of asking a big rig to do a lot quickly. Advances in safety have made replacement of the older units a priority. These include improved braking, more efficient electrical systems, better lighting packages, improvements to the structure, and integrity of the van and patient compartment.

Three of these rigs are staged at the 1079 Spring St. station. One as a priority response and the other two are for transfers from Peace Island Medical Center’s Emergency Room for flights and training. The statistics for a second, separate 911 call to be paged in this small community is close to an astounding 25 percent. That keeps these two ambulances busy. A fourth ambulance is staged out at Roche Harbor as a back-up for rigs that are placed out of service for repairs and for volunteers to respond to from their homes at the north end, for 911 calls that occur in that area.

An intra-agency ambulance workgroup was started three years ago but disbanded due to insufficient funding to make a purchase. Two years ago, the group gathered again after SJIEMS received the extremely generous Gann donation and began searching for a new rig. The group considered ambulance length, easy patient access, storage of large bulky equipment, interior box lighting, maintenance requirements, and patient comfort during the ride, and patient and responder safety upgrades. The decision was made to have Braun NW, located in Chehalis, Washington, build the ambulance. The letter of intent was signed Feb. 1, 2017, and it was delivered nine months later.

There are only slight physical changes to this new rig, compared to the department’s current fleet. Keeping the fleet identical in appearance inside and out is always a consideration for ease of use for the volunteers who operate these machines as well as the safety of others using the roadway. Also, on the side, displayed with pride, is a dedication to Gann.

Stop by the station and ask for a tour or call 360-378-5152. Visit for more information.