Alan M. Petrillo
The Bel Air (MD) Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) is one of the busiest volunteer departments in Maryland, covering an 80-square-mile area as first-due response and providing mutual aid to three counties. Last year Bel Air ran 6,495 emergency medical service (EMS) calls with four first-line advanced life support (ALS) ambulances.
Bel Air VFD, centrally located in Harford County, operates out of three stations and averages nearly 24 EMS calls a day, so quality, ease of maintenance, and reliability were chief concerns when the department looked to purchase a new ambulance, says Greg Sentman, the department’s ambulance committee chairman. “PL Custom gave us the option of using a 12-volt hardwired electrical system instead of a multiplex system,” Sentman says. “Because of the number of ambulance calls we run, the time required for service, as well as the ease of getting parts for a 12-volt system, we decided not to go with a multiplex system.”
(1) The Bel Air (MD) Volunteer Fire Department chose PL Custom
Sentman notes, “It’s easier to go to our local automotive electrical shop and buy a $10 relay rather than take an ambulance out of service to run it to a dealer’s shop in Baltimore to adjust the multiplex.” The onsite mechanic that PL Custom offered also was a selling point because his location was only about two hours away from Bel Air’s main station.
Shortly after Bel Air awarded the ambulance contract to PL Custom, the department increased its order to two identical ALS ambulances. Ultimately, Bel Air VFD ended up ordering a third rig from PL Custom, which is currently being built.
Chad Newsome, PL Custom’s national sales manager, says that his firm had spoken with Bel Air in the past but that it was never able to get the department as a customer. “DPC Emergency Equipment, in Marydel, Maryland and Delaware, is the one that made this happen,” Newsome says. “DPC was able to sell them the first ambulance, then Bel Air ordered a second, and now we are building a third for them. It’s gratifying any time you are able to win a new account, but more so when they come back and order more trucks.”
(2) Bel Air opted to include a squad bench in its ambulances so their
The ambulances are duplicate rigs, Newsome notes, with only small refinements among them and no wholesale changes. Each vehicle is built on a 2013 International 4300 M7 chassis and powered by a 300-hp International MaxxForce 7 diesel engine and an Allison 2200 EVS automatic transmission.
Jeff Hawkins, DPC Emergency Equipment’s sales and marketing coordinator, says he brought a demo unit to Bel Air early in the purchasing process and after the specs were put out, PL Custom was one of three bidders for the contract. “It was a fairly clean bid spec where they wanted to duplicate their current interior layout but wanted the truck on a 12-volt electrical system,” Hawkins says. “We were able to do that for them, and they like the fact that the 12-volt system can be diagnosed and worked on by anyone with basic electrical knowledge. Plus, we have a lifetime warranty on it, even if we remount the box.”
(3) A medical refrigerator to handle climate-
Patient Box Equipment
Sentman says that Bel Air specified a medical refrigerator in the patient box area to handle climate-controlled medications and liked the International chassis “because of the number of urban runs we handle, where it is designed to run a heavy number of calls.”
The Bel Air committee also specified a Stryker Power-Pro stretcher, Sentman pointed out, which is especially useful when lifting heavy patients, as well as a Zico oxygen tank lift system. In addition, the specs called for all LED lighting on the ambulance to reduce the amperage draw and the stress on the alternator system. The department went with all Whelen Super LED lighting, including cab and body warning lights and the 900 series LED scene and loading lights.
“We were very impressed by the PL Custom factory and the people who were working in it,” Sentman observes. “It’s a family-run company, and each workstation was personalized as to who works there. Everyone wears an ID tag with years of service on it, and if they didn’t have an answer to your question, they would have someone else there quickly to answer it.”
(4) The ambulances built for Bel Air include radiused countertops and
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 Custom Emergency Vehicles Ambulances
• 2013 International 4300 M7 chassis
• 169-inch wheelbases
• 172-inch module lengths
• 72-inch interior heights
• International MaxxForce 7 300-hp diesel engines
• Allison 2200 EVS automatic transmissions
• Whelen 700 and 900 series Super-LED cab and body warning lights
• Whelen 295SLSC1 electronic sirens
• Two Cast Products SAD/P 4318 100-watt siren speakers
• Two Grover air horns
• Hardwired 12-volt electrical systems
• IOTA DLS-30 battery chargers
• Whelen LED dome lights
• Six Whelen 900 series LED scene/load lights
• Stryker Power-Pro stretchers
• Custom double-wide seats curbside; full length squad benches streetside
• Zico oxygen tank lift systems
• Medi-Kool MK20 stainless steel climate controlled drug cabinet
• Two color cameras-backup cameras over rear entry doors and cameras in patient compartments facing rearward
Price without equipment: $228,250
Bel Air (MD) Volunteer Fire Department
Strength: 250 volunteer firefighters; 58 paid paramedics and emergency medical technicians.
Service area: Provides fire, rescue, and EMS to approximately 105,000 people during the day and 80,000 people at night in an 80-square-mile first-due response district, encompassing both rural and suburban areas. The department operates out of three stations near Interstate 95 and state route 24. Also provides extensive mutual-aid support to surrounding fire and EMS departments in Harford and Baltimore Counties in Maryland and York County in Pennsylvania.
Other apparatus: 2008 Horton GMC Advanced Life Support ambulance; two 2007 Horton GMC Advanced Life Support ambulances; two 2006 Seagrave Marauder II pumpers, each with a Hale 1,500-gpm pump, 750-gallon water tank, and 50-gallon foam tank; 2002 Spartan/Saulsbury rescue-pumper, 1,500-gpm pump, 750-gallon water tank, and 150-gallon foam tank; two 1998 Spartan/Saulsbury pumpers, each with a Hale 1,500-gpm pump, 750-gallon water tank, and 50-gallon foam tank; 2009 Spartan/Crimson Fire 100-foot rear-mount aerial platform; 2002 American LaFrance/LTI 100-foot tower ladder; two brush trucks; 1986 Ford air unit; assorted GMC and Ford utility and chief’s vehicles.