The Upper Arlington Fire Division unveiled a new battery-powered ambulance cot last week designed to be more comfortable for patients while significantly reducing the risk of back injuries for emergency personnel.
The division's first Stryker Power-Pro XT cot went into service Jan. 9.
By Monday, Jan. 13, firefighter and paramedic Mark Weade said it had been used six to seven times already.
"Even though it's a bigger cot, it has the ability to shrink down in size and we can get it into more elevators," Weade said. "It's more comfortable, and with the older population we have around here, that's nice.
"Before, no matter what level we were at, we still had to pick (the cots) up to load and unload. This is going to help our backs more."
The cot -- otherwise known as a stretcher -- has additional cushioning and positioning features for improved patient comfort.
It also has a battery-powered hydraulic system that raises and lowers the equipment when medics load and unload patients into and out of ambulances.
Fully outfitted, the cot costs approximately $20,000.
The powered cot is a first for the fire department; local EMS personnel said they think they're among the only central Ohio medics to have one.
They also said they expect it to reduce work-related physical strains and injuries.
"Our big problem is the repetitive motion," said Lt. Jim Mild said. "It's that lift and twist, lift and twist.
"It's better for patients and it's better for our backs," he said of the new equipment.
Public Information Officer Dan Kochensparger said many firefighters suffer work-related injuries from those repeated motions required to perform patient loading.
He added that emergency medical professionals across the country have reported average patient weights are higher, which makes handling injured or ill persons more difficult.
Those issues can be compounded, Kochensparger said, by a national trend of "minimum manning" of emergency-response vehicles, which the UA fire department adopted last year.
"We went to minimum manning of our medic units," Kochensparger said. "We now have two medics (per unit), and it used to be three."
The battery-powered cot has a 700-pound capacity and variable height positions to allow for optimal delivery of CPR as a patient is being moved into or from an ambulance.
It also features EMS equipment storage areas, a retractable head section that allows better maneuvering in tight spaces such as elevators, an articulating frame design that allows for multiple patient comfort positions and a 40-pound capacity IV and equipment pole.
Kochensparger said the cot also can be power-washed to prevent contamination from one patient to the next.
"In the event of a battery failure, there is a backup battery maintained in a charge on the medic unit," he said. "In the case of a mechanical system failure, the cot can be manually loaded and unloaded with some passive assistance from the hydraulic system."
A second powered cot has been budgeted for 2014, Kochensparger said, and will be placed in service on the fire department's only other medic unit, which is assigned to the Reed Road fire station.