Anchorage has ‘AmbuBus’ ready for catastrophic disaster
Anchorage has a project in the bus barn that could help you during the next mass emergency.
The “AmbuBus,” or Medical Ambulance Bus, is an old People Mover bus the city converted to an ambulance that can transport patients by the dozen.
“If there’s an earthquake, if there’s a lot of trauma in the community, the ambulance service, EMS, is going to be overwhelmed. We needed a vehicle, a way to transport less-acute patients,” explained Mark Lessard, the administrator for Municipal Department of Health and Human Services’ Anchorage Safety Patrol.
The AmbuBus Kit installed in the bus includes 12 stretchers and medical supplies.
“It’s pretty bare bones,” Lessard said.
He said the main mission of the bus would be transporting stable or non-critical patients during a hospital evacuation following an event like a large-scale earthquake, or removing less-acute patients to make room at hospitals for a large number of trauma patients coming in.
It takes four people to operate the bus: A People Mover bus driver, a transport commander like an emergency medical technician or registered nurse, an assistant transport commander, and another transport staff member.
Lessard said they’ve had the bus since 2012, and have used it in several large training exercises, but never a real emergency. They did get their first real call in July of 2015 when a tour bus was involved in a deadly crash on the Seward Highway.
“That was a real-world deployment where it was kind of a no notice, phone call, and then the bus rolled out within 45 minutes,” he said.
They ended up not needing the bus, and turned it around, but Lessard said it was good practice.
“It’s a great asset for the city,” he said. “It’s something that, you know, hopefully we would never have to deploy, but we’re prepared to deploy it if needed.”
People Mover maintains the bus. It’s stored in the bus barn where it stays warm and dry.
A Federal Metropolitan Medical Response System Grant awarded in 2009 paid the roughly $65,000 for the AmbuBus Kit, the installation of communication and medical equipment and the wrap on the outside of the bus.
Lessard said Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson has four similar emergency buses, and the state has two AmbuBus Kits in storage, ready to be installed in buses if needed.
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