Coming a long way from its golf cart origins, Georgetown Emergency Response Medical Service welcomed a new ambulance yesterday after a year of searching.
Unit 9 will replace one of the two ambulances GERMS currently uses to provide student volunteer EMT services to the university and the surrounding community.
According to Colin Brody (COL ’11), president and four-year member of the organization, the timing of the new ride’s arrival is on schedule with the cycle the ambulance service has maintained over the past few years.
For the past 15 years, GERMS has consistently had two ambulances at a time, with one serving as the main ambulance for primary use and the other serving as backup. Under this system, if one ambulance needs to go out of service for repairs, there is always one available to take calls. Unit 7 has been at Georgetown since 2000; Unit 8 was purchased in 2005.
GERMS’ student leadership began planning the purchase of a new ambulance in the fall of 2009. Brody and his coworkers focused on contacting vendors and selecting a company throughout the academic year, and over the summer they finalized the design.
Although most students won’t notice a difference between the older and newer models, Brody said that several key features have been updated.
“To us, it looks very different,” Brody said. “The interior, though, has changed significantly because in the last five years there have been a lot of technological [advances].”
Among the changes: more room for rider seating and supplies to be stored, as well as power-saving LED lighting, which will improve visibility inside and out of the vehicle. The new vehicle will also be powered by gasoline, not by the diesel that fuels the other two GERMS ambulances. Unlike GERMS’ existing wheels, it also contains an interior door connecting the back — where the patient lies — to the front of the ambulance.
With its state-of-the-art features and improvements, Unit 9 is a far cry from its 1982 founding vehicle.
When the emergency medical response team was founded by Robert W. Arnold of the Emergency Medical Education Program, Robert Doherty (COL ’83) and a handful of undergraduate students in 1982, the only EMS vehicle at their service was a converted E-Z-Go electric golf cart. In the spring of 1983, GERMS obtained a secondhand ambulance, a vehicle that had formerly served as a hearse before its conversion to EMS use.
Georgetown University and GERMS contributed equally to the purchase of the ambulance. Additional funding came from donations given to GERMS by alumni and parent donors, as well as portions of past graduating seniors’ monetary gifts over the past five years designated for GERMS.
According to Brody, the organization hopes to start service with the new vehicle by Unit 9’s official dedication on Feb. 20, when it will be parked in Healy Circle for a formal ceremony featuring University President John J. DeGioia, campus dignitaries, alumni, guests and current students. Afterward, a reception is set to include ambulance tour opportunities for guests.
“It’s our day to shine and show off the new product before it goes into service,” Brody said.
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