The Rescue Hose Co.'s new ambulance, Ambulance 3-9, will go in service on Wednesday, Nov. 21.

The 2017 Road Rescue F-550 arrived the first week in October and was displayed during Fire Prevention Week, then sent away for the installation of a Stryker power load system, according to Richard Wertman, EMS chief.

The automatic system raises and lowers the cot to help in loading and unloading patients. Wertman said this helps protect the backs of members of the ambulance crew, preventing injuries and worker's compensation claims. Wertman anticipates there will soon be new, stricter state regulations concerning lifting.

The amount of lifting done by the five full-timers, 15 part-timers and scores of EMS volunteers is rising as the call volume escalates.

There were 1,334 ambulance calls in 2016, 1,551 in 2017 and the Rescue Hose Co. is on track for close to 1,700 this year. Factors include more businesses in the area, the traffic volume, Interstate 81 and overdoses, according to Wertman. The first ambulance out the door is staffed by the paid crew, but the second and third are manned by volunteers.

Keith Mowen, the Rescue Hose Co.'s chief engineer, has the ambulances on a 10-year replacement plan, because in that time a basic life support unit will travel about 100,000 miles. The three ambulances in the fleet are rotated weekly as to which leaves the station first to even out wear and tear. One of the three is always four-wheel drive, currently Ambulance 3-7.

It takes about a year of planning for the volunteer committee to get a new piece of apparatus, Wertman said, explaining it is a lot like buying a car, selecting brand, model and features.

The new Ambulance 3-9 is actually used. It was a show piece for J&J Emergency Vehicles, bringing the price down to $244,000 from $275,000, while retaining the warranty. The money saved essentially paid for the lift system.

"Apparatus is not cheap, so if you can save some money, you do," Wertman said.

The new 4X2 ambulance also has an all-electric touch screen dash; locking cabinets to meet new safety regulations; an electric oxygen lift for large bottles used in oxygen therapy; and liquid springs to lower the back end to further prevent lifting.

Similar to many police vehicles, it has a low frequency siren that creates a rumble or vibration to alert other drivers who may not hear a siren because they are on the phone or listening to the radio, Wertman explained.