Imagine a person falls and breaks their leg half a mile into the woods in Bird Park. An ambulance or fire truck can’t reach them in the hilly, wooded terrain. In the past, that meant Mt. Lebanon first responders would be tasked with carrying the victim to a spot where they could be picked up.
Thanks to the newest addition to the Mt. Lebanon Fire Department’s fleet, they now have another option: the Polaris Ranger, an all-wheel drive, all-terrain vehicle that can reach people in hard to access areas, like the middle of a park or a crowded Washington Road amid a bustling Halloween parade.
“It’s all about access—access when a road is closed for an event or access to hard-to-reach areas,” said Firefighter Steve Noorbakhsh.
The all-terrain vehicle has long been a wish list item for the department, said Deputy Chief Rodger Ricciuti. But it never made it to the department’s final budget.
Earlier this year, the Mt. Lebanon Volunteer Fire Company association received money through the American Rescue Act, more commonly known as “COVID money,” released from the federal government and given to counties to distribute to municipalities, said Assistant Chief Sean Daniels. That money was used to purchase the Polaris and additional emergency response accessories, which totaled $25,000. No local tax dollars were used on the purchase.
The Polaris was outfitted with sirens and lighting and can carry emergency response equipment, like AEDs, oxygen and a medical bag. A seat was added to the back where a first responder can provide care to the patient.
“It’s small. It’s very maneuverable. It can carry up to three people in the front and an EMS provider and patient in the rear,” Ricciuti said.
The vehicle has a 10-inch ground clearance and can quickly access people in crowded spaces.
“Primarily, it’s allowing us to have access at large events and off-road capabilities for some of the bigger park areas,” Ricciuti said. And it’s a smoother ride for the patient than being carried by a first responder.
For the Fourth of July festivities in Mt. Lebanon Park, the vehicle was stationed by a firefighter and Medical Rescue Team South Authority paramedic throughout the day.
“That gave us the capability to get to somebody who was ill or injured anywhere in the park, even though the roads were closed and blocked by trucks,” Ricciuti said.
“It’s a tool in our toolbox.”