WEST ALLIS — Break your leg on the Hank Aaron State Trail and it will be the little $73,000 ambulance that will come and get you.
The little ambulance, that nevertheless is mighty with everything a paramedic would want to use, can trundle over rocks and climb over all manner of debris, powered by its six-wheel drive. It proved it on a shake-down run at Sheridan Park in Cudahy along the Lake Michigan beach last week.
"I was surprised at how well it rode, even on the rocky beach," said West Allis Fire Department Assistant Chief Kurt Zellmann, who is in charge of the city's emergency medical service. "That's important for somebody who's got a broken leg or when jostling hurts them."
"It greatly expands our capacity for going into remote and construction areas," Zellmann said. "It can get into some pretty precarious places."
In fact, providing a quick response to construction injuries on the massive Zoo Interchange reconstruction project was a major impetus for the city getting the ATV ambulance, he said.
The Hank Aaron Trail also is the source of a significant number of calls for help, and that can be hard on rescuers and patients, he said.
"For a number of calls on the Hank Aaron Trail, we had to manually carry patients a significant distance," he said. Now, the little ambulance will come get them and they will get immediate paramedic care.
The city chipped in $5,000 toward the $73,000 cost of the ambulance. State and private grants paid the rest.
Available to all
The ambulance will be available to any area department, Zellmann said.
He most looks forward to employing the ambulance at the Wisconsin State Fair, where people often have to be taken to a hospital because they are overcome by heat. The enclosed, air conditioned ambulance will be much better than the open vehicle the department uses now to get patients through the dense state fair crowds.
The regular city ambulances that are far bigger than cars, can't be used to cut through such crowds, Zellmann said. But the little ambulance is only about as wide as a golf cart, although somewhat longer.
"This is an ideal unit for large crowds," and far superior to what the department uses now at the fair, he said.
Besides having very little storage, the current transportation exposes patients to crowds where Zellmann has heard unkind remarks thrown at them.
Usually people overcome by the heat are older and Zellmann has heard people say things like the patients are overweight and that they should not have come to the fair in the first place, he said.
Privacy is important, too, as medical procedures sometimes need to be done. Paramedics even performed CPR on someone as they drove past children at the fair.
"There are things people don't need to see," Zellmann said.
The little ambulance that could can rush along at 48 mph, and if it gets into a pinch, it has a winch on the front and on the back to get itself out. It can use the winches to haul others out of their predicaments, too.
At accident or disaster scenes, it can bathe two acres in bright light from a 4,000-watt built-in generator. If rescuers need to plug in something like a saw, the little ambulance has 110 volts at their disposal.
The West Allis ATV ambulance is one of three in the state. The others are in Green Bay and Madison.
"We're really lucky to have this asset in this area," Zellmann said. He noted that West Allis is at a central geographical location, at the intersection of two major freeways.