HATTIESBURG, Miss. — The state's Department of Health (MSDH), together with the Department of Education, area emergency response agencies and several school districts, has established AmbuBus, a program to distribute conversion kits that allow districts to turn out-of-rotation buses into medical evacuation vehicles during emergencies.
In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, officials examined emergency procedures looking for gaps to fill, Jim Craig explained. Craig, director of the health department's Office of Health Protection, said buses converted by Keesler Air Force Base and used during hurricane evacuations inspired the program. Because most counties in the state are rural, often only one ambulance is available to cover an entire county during an emergency.
MSDH applied for a federal grant to fund the program, thus school districts receive the kits free of charge. Chantilly, Va.-based First Line Technology LLC manufactures the kits, which include two metal frames, each constructed to hold nine standard stretchers along with IVs and any other necessary medical items.
According to the company, installation time is two hours and kits fit most buses. A converted bus with seats removed can carry 18 patients and a team of up to eight medical personnel.
Currently, six school districts in the state have been provided with kits, with plans to add three more. "We're requesting additional funding next year so that we can expand the program to include other school districts," Craig said. Maintenance staff at the school districts with kits received hands-on training in installing the conversion kit equipment.
[IMAGE]467[/IMAGE]The logistics of deploying converted buses during an emergency must be worked out between the school districts and their local emergency response managers, Craig said. "Is it going to be school bus drivers and EMS folks that get on the bus, or is it going to be hospital staff? All those specific issues are part of the plan that we require them to put together before we would provide them a kit, so there would be not just a resource there but also a plan on how to use that resource," he explained.