Special Delivery: Oxford (MA) Fire-EMS Turns to PL Custom to Replace Damaged Ambulance

 Fast delivery and the safety of crew and patients were two reasons why the Oxford (MA) Fire-EMS Department chose PL Custom Emergency Vehicles to build a Medallion 170 Type III ambulance. (Photos courtesy of PL Custom Emergency Vehicles.)
Fast delivery and the safety of crew and patients were two reasons why the Oxford (MA) Fire-EMS Department chose PL Custom Emergency Vehicles to build a Medallion 170 Type III ambulance. (Photos courtesy of PL Custom Emergency Vehicles.)
 The PL Custom Medallion 170 Type III ambulance built for the Oxford (MA) Fire-EMS Department features radiused cabinetry, recessed below-counter suction storage, and a locking drug storage cabinet with a thermostatically controlled heat extraction system.
The PL Custom Medallion 170 Type III ambulance built for the Oxford (MA) Fire-EMS Department features radiused cabinetry, recessed below-counter suction storage, and a locking drug storage cabinet with a thermostatically controlled heat extraction system.
 Safety features on the PL Custom Medallion 170 ambulance include extra side-impact construction on the box, cargo netting at the head of the squad bench, and an easily accessible tilt-out trash and sharps combination unit.
Safety features on the PL Custom Medallion 170 ambulance include extra side-impact construction on the box, cargo netting at the head of the squad bench, and an easily accessible tilt-out trash and sharps combination unit.

When Oxford (MA) Fire-EMS Department’s 2000 Freightliner ambulance suffered significant damage, Chief Sheri Bemis knew she’d have to act quickly to get a new rig into the department’s fleet. “We run three ambulances and a paramedic response unit, so we’re busy with calls,” Bemis says. “I pulled the ambulance people together and asked them what they would change in an ambulance that was different than what we currently had. They came up with a number of suggestions, and we wrote up the specs and put the ambulance out to bid.”

Hastened Replacement

The existing unit was already scheduled for replacement. Bemis says that because the accident reduced the department’s ambulance inventory by one third, she was eager to get it replaced, so the vehicle committee decided to purchase a demo unit.

“It takes between 120 and 150 days to build an ambulance from scratch,” she notes. “When all the bids were returned, we had 15 bids from seven different ambulance manufacturers, bidding on both demo units and custom builds from scratch. We chose PL Custom Emergency Vehicles because its bid was competitive, it had a strong concern for crew and patient safety, and it had the shortest delivery time.”

Bemis says that PL Custom had an ambulance coming off the line, where the box had been mounted on the chassis and had all its cutouts done, but the interior hadn’t been touched. “We got the unit at the stage where [PL Custom] could customize the rig for us from that point on,” Bemis observes.

Chad Newsome, national sales manager for PL Custom, says Bemis brought the department’s head mechanic Michael Berg and chief medical officer Lieutenant Roger Lambert to the plant, toured the facility, and chose the ambulance coming off the line. “One of their concerns was about sound deadening,” Newsome says. “We reviewed the sound deadening we install and showed them how they could focus on the patient in the back of the unit so the medics can easily hear a patient’s heartbeat, lung sounds, and blood pressure sounds.”

A Custom Ride

Newsome says that PL Custom made 26 custom changes to the ambulance for Oxford after it came off the line. It modified the box from a walk-through to a nonwalk-through by installing a small cabinet in the walkway to house a laptop and printer, put in a cargo net tied into the body structure for crew safety, added a tilt-out trash and sharps combination unit in the interior of the box, and changed the standard wall-mounted suction unit to one that is recessed into the cabinet to allow more usable counter space.

In addition, PL Custom added ceiling oxygen outlets, upgraded the dome lights to Whelen LED units, added patient procedure lights to a total of six, put in a Vanner combination charger-inverter, installed a rear-view camera, and fabricated a thermostatically controlled exhaust fan that extracts heat from the locking drug storage cabinet. Other changes include adding directionals on the top front of the box, lights over the rear wheel wells, and several glove boxes in the interior.

User and Patient Protection

Bemis says she and head mechanic Berg were “very impressed with PL Custom’s understanding of the need for maintenance on the vehicle. The access panels they provided are all handy, and the wiring is well marked in the ambulance.”

Safety of the crew and patients also was one of Oxford Fire-EMS’s main concerns, she adds. “Our ambulances are designed around a busy service. So, with paramedics working in the box, we were glad to see the extra side impact construction they did on the box structure,” she says. “We also liked the installation of the cargo netting at the head of the squad bench. It has seat belt clips, so it’s removable. But, when it’s in position, it protects the EMT in case of a crash.”

PL Custom also designed an EKG monitor bracket that securely holds the monitor yet is easily visible to the medic from different angles. “The medic can still see the monitor without moving around,” Bemis observes. “We want our medics to be able to do their job safely in back without having to move around a lot. We’re pleased with the ambulance [PL custom] built for us—you can feel the quality when you open and close the doors.”

ALAN M. PETRILLO is a Tucson, Arizona-based freelance writer and is a member of the Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment editorial advisory board. He served 22 years with the Verdoy (NY) Fire Department, including in the position of chief.


PL CustomMedallion 170 Ambulance

  • 2011 nonwalk-through Type III ambulance
  • Chevrolet G4500 cutaway chassis
  • Wheelbase: 159 inches
  • Duramax 6.6-liter turbo diesel V8 engine
  • Module length: 170 inches
  • Module interior height: 72 inches
  • Five exterior storage compartments
  • Sweep-out exterior storage compartments with stainless steel sills
  • Power locks for entry and storage compartments
  • Whelen Super LED lighting package
  • GTT Opticom emitter
  • Whelen LED interior dome lights
  • Backup camera
  • Sound-deadened patient compartment
  • Centrally ducted heat and air-conditioning
  • Cargo netting at head of squad bench
  • Radiused cabinetry
  • Locking drug storage cabinet with thermostatically controlled heat extraction system
  • Recessed below-counter suction storage
  • Four oxygen outlets
  • Combination Vanner inverter-charger

Price without equipment: $152,297


Oxford (MA) Fire-EMS Department

Strength: 10 full-time paid firefighters, 35 on-call firefighters and EMS providers; two stations providing fire suppression, vehicle rescue, water rescue, and EMS protection.

Service area: covers a 26-square-mile residential community with a population of approximately 13,500 people.

Other apparatus: 2007 Spartan 55-foot aerial quint, 1,250-gpm pump, 450-gallon tank; 1997 Freightliner FL70 pumper, 1,250-gpm pump, 1,000-gallon tank; 1994 Freightliner FG120 pumper-tanker, 1,500-gpm pump, 1,000-gallon tank; 1988 KME pumper, 1,250-gpm pump, 1,000-gallon tank; 2004 Freightliner 103-foot aerial quint (last fly articulates), 1,500-gpm pump, 750-gpm tank; 2000 American LaFrance heavy rescue; 2012 F-550 with portable pump and 250-gallon tank skid unit; 1985 International forestry truck, 500-gpm pump, 2,000-gallon tank; 2009 Medtech Ford E-450 diesel ambulance; PL Custom 2007 Chevrolet G4500 diesel ambulance; Chevrolet Tahoe paramedic response unit; Rescue One connector boat (flat-bottom dive boat).

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