New ambulances joining Echo Hose fleet in Shelton

SHELTON — Echo Hose Ambulance is sporting a new ambulance, with another soon to join the fleet, all thanks to the generosity of city residents and businesses.

Echo Hose Assistant Chief Joe Laucella said the company recently replaced a 2009 Ford Van ambulance with a 2019 Mercedes 4x4 Sprinter, costing $111,000. The ambulance has already been put to the test, according to Laucella, with the service responding to numerous calls during the recent snowstorms.

The other new ambulance — a 2020 Mercedes Sprinter — will be placed in service some time over the next two months, Laucella said, at a cost of $113,000. This new ambulance will replace a 2005 4x4 F-450 ambulance.

Echo Hose Chief Michael Chaffee said the new ambulances “are a great help with improved safety features, mechanicals, design layout and reliability. Also, having new and improved ambulances is always a boost in efficiency and morale.”

The ambulances were paid for through donations made to the Echo Hose Ambulance annual fund drive campaign.

“On behalf of the members at Echo Hose Ambulance, thank you to our residents and businesses who contributed to our 2020 annual fund drive,” Laucella said. “The donations from our annual fund drive helped make it possible to purchase the two new ambulances.”

Echo Hose Ambulance, founded in 1949, is a nonprofit service which responds to more than 5,200 emergencies and transports more than 3,800 patients to local hospitals each year.

Over the summer, at the peak of the pandemic, call volumes shifted down. By the fall, Chaffee said calls were back up to normal volume and were even higher. December was Echo Hose’s highest call month on record, he said.

“Throughout this pandemic our volunteers and staff have worked amazingly hard,” Chaffee said. “They are proficient in our adapted COVID procedures and PPE use to keep their patients and themselves safe before, during and after the call.

“It’s a lot of work with preparations, enhanced safety, evolving procedures and response guidelines, deployment models, decontamination, testing and now vaccination,” Chaffee added. “We love our community and are doing what it takes to get it done ... together.”

The company consists of more than 70 volunteers and 30 part-time/full time EMTs and paramedics, and operates seven ambulances, one paramedic first responder vehicle and three basic life support first responder vehicles.

“Both ambulances have a new stretcher retention system that provides safer transport for the patient and a safer loading procedure for the crew,” Laucella said.

The Sprinter ambulance, though narrow inside like our two in-service van ambulances, offers significant headroom which allows team members to stand up when necessary in the rear compartment, Laucella said.

“Their sleek design helps our crews navigate through tight streets, parking lots and through congested traffic situations such as Route 8, when traffic is at a standstill,” he added.

He said the Sprinter holds the same emergency equipment as the larger box-style ambulances, allowing the crews to “replace our fleet with a very safe, reliable vehicle, for a fraction of the cost of some of the custom larger box-style ambulances that are in service.”

The price of a new ambulance does not include any of the equipment that is inside the vehicle that the state of Connecticut requires for it to be licensed as an ambulance. The Stretcher Retention System (an estimated $7,000), the stretcher ($18,000), two-way portable radios ($5,000) as well as approximately $10,000 in smaller equipment is necessary to license the ambulance with the state.

“Depending on the age and condition of the equipment, we sometimes can reuse equipment from a previous ambulance,” Laucella said. “We were fortunate to have two new stretchers that will be used in these new ambulances. We did have to purchase two new retention systems, two-way radios and some small miscellaneous equipment.”

Laucella said when ambulances are replaced, Echo Hose generally donates the older vehicle to another nonprofit organization or a city department which may need a utility vehicle.

Residents or businesses can still donate to the Echo Hose Ambulance annual fund drive campaign. Donations can be made online at www.echohose.org or can be mailed to Echo Hose Ambulance, PO Box 213, Shelton CT 06484.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com