Stephen Wall, Staff Writer
LOMA LINDA – The city and Loma Linda University Medical Center are working on a joint project to improve public safety in the area known as the South Hills.
Hospital researchers have received federal funds to study methods of delivering advanced medical care to remote locations.
As part of the research project, the hospital is providing the Fire Department with an all-terrain vehicle uniquely designed to respond to emergencies in the hills.
“Our focus with the Fire Department is looking at disaster situations where they may have to respond in an area that is inaccessible with usual vehicles such as ambulances,” said Lea Walters, primary investigator for the Discoveries project at Loma Linda University Medical Center.
A model of the vehicle is being tested. It should be available to the Fire Department by December, Walters said.
The vehicle, a six-wheel-drive Polaris Ranger, will be modified to allow rescuers to communicate with hospital physicians using satellite technology.
Medical information such as x-rays and vital signs are transmitted to emergency room specialists, who look at the images and provide real-time consultations.
The vehicle will be able to transport one patient on a gurney and two or three others who aren’t seriously injured, Walters said.
Fire Chief Jeff Bender said he expects the number of emergency responses to increase as more people use the trails in the hills for hiking and mountain biking.
The city has been promoting the trail system following the passage of a ballot measure last year setting aside nearly 1,700 acres of public land as permanent open space.
Bender said the department regularly responds to mountain bike crashes, motorcycle accidents and other emergencies in the hills.
“There are some places in the hills that are too narrow to reach with four-wheel-drive trucks,” Bender said. “This vehicle can give us better access to our whole trail system.”