The University of Maine’s Voluntary Ambulance Corp (UVAC) has a new tool in its life-saving arsenal. The volunteer organization is the state-licensed medical emergency service on campus, and it recently received about $200,000 for a new ambulance and new equipment. Two grants from the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation and Consensual Health Services and concerted budgeting funded the ambulance and equipment. Based at the Cutler Health Center, UVAC serves the campus, Orono and Old Town.
“[The ambulance] is top of the line … We’re extremely happy. It’s like working for a whole new service,” said Assistant Chief of Relations Tobias Knausenberger.
The ambulance — UVAC 50 — is a 2009 Ford E450 PL Customs Ambulance purchased from Sugarloaf Ambulances in Carrabassett.
“It was built in New Jersey, entirely to our specifications. There’s no truck like it in the U.S.,” said Brian Giberson, student chief of service at UVAC.
Highlighted new pieces of equipment include the Life Pak 12, vacuum splints and a power stretcher. The Life Pak 12 is a cardiac monitor system; volunteers use it to diagnose and treat heart attacks and measure dangerous heart rhythms while in the field. Vacuum splints are especially useful at athletic events, according to Giberson and Knausenberger. Strapped around the injured limb, the splints are then inflated to restrict all movement. The power stretcher is battery operated and eliminates the risk of injury from heavy lifting. UVAC 50 is designed to be an extension of the emergency room and is fully equipped to handle a person in any state of emergency.
“Everything you would see in an emergency room, pretty much, you see in the ambulance,” Giberson said.
Bill Yates, UVAC’s assistant chief of professional development, pointed out that the “campus is really like a small city.”
Yates explained that, as a small city, all ages are on UMaine’s campus — from children in daycare programs to the elderly. UVAC 50 is prepared for this and even has a cabinet dedicated to pediatrics.
UVAC 51, the old ambulance formerly known as UVAC 50, has been relieved of primary duties and is now used for special events or when responding to multiple emergencies.
UVAC 50 is always in service. The truck typically takes two to three volunteers to an emergency. Maine state law dictates that there must be a licensed emergency medical technician, or EMT, at the scene. UVAC responds with a driver, licensed EMT and an “attendant slot” which could be anyone, from a new recruit to the student chief.
A student and faculty run organization, UVAC responds to approximately 400 to 500 calls a year, mostly on UMaine’s campus but also in surrounding towns. They respond to medical emergencies, fire alarms and general alarms in the area.
“It’s a real team effort here,” Knausenberger said.
UVAC volunteers are fully trained. Approximately 20 licensed EMTs are among the 40 volunteers. The EMTs range from basic to paramedic — the most advanced emergency technician level.
“It’s a huge safety piece for the [volunteers] and for the patients,” Giberson said. “We’re real excited and happy to have [it]. It’s newer, more reliable … for the university and surrounding communities.”