This week, the American Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania (SEPA) will play host to the newly designed prototype of our Emergency Response Vehicle (ERV). The new prototype will stop in Philadelphia as part of its journey to Red Cross Chapters all over the country. The idea is to allow chapter employees and volunteers to provide feedback on its design and make any recommendations for changes once they have used the vehicle in the field.
American Red Cross ERVs have become an iconic symbol of our disaster relief services. In 1898, Clara Barton used a wagon as an ambulance for her work on the battlefield. Later, the organization used club mobiles to serve WWII soldiers. Before standardization began in the 1980s, the Red Cross used converted bread trucks, station wagons and pickup trucks painted with our iconic logo to deliver meals and other essentials after disasters. The current “ambulance design” was first used to support people affected by tornados in Western Pennsylvania.
Wise readers familiar with the current design know that it resembles a large box on wheels and is slightly unwhieldy to drive. The new model will lighten up, resembling the more agile service vehicles sometimes seen in densely packed European cities. Still, the key to it all will be whether these vehicles help our trained responders meet the needs of our clients in a timely and humane way. The national fleet of 320 ERVs is now more than 10 years old and is challenging to maintain. Once the new design is chosen, the Red Cross plans to completely replace and expand the existing fleet over the next ten years.
As always, the Red Cross will make changes with an eye toward efficiency and the bottom line. The new ERV’s will be less expensive to purchase and maintain. According to my colleague, Sara Smith, who rode in one this morning, the new design emphasizes comfort, fuel efficiency, storage and connectivity. They provide enough space for our trained responders to meet with clients inside the van, away from the scene of the disaster. I know our volunteers will appreciate the opportunity to take clients away from water or smoke and shelter them immediately. The ERVs will also include an external dynamic messaging system, allowing responders to share real time information with others.
SEPA is excited to take part in this testing process. We will be seeking to discover if the new ERV’s features — such as a loading/unloading system, enhanced technology and a back-up camera – meet the needs of people who turn to our chapter for help after disasters. This new model may not be “the one” but it’s really great get the chance to take it for a spin.
– Submitted by Sarah Peterson (Communications Volunteer)