San Diego Medical Services Enterprise LLC is in the “business of taking care of the public,” and at the urging of its special events manager, the ambulance provider decided to launch a program aimed at better event coverage.
The company purchased four chariots , priced at $4,000 each , from Hollywood-based American Chariot Co. Inc. to enhance its special event staff. At the Sept. 9 San Diego Chargers game, San Diego Medical Services Enterprise used the chariots for the first time as both an ambulatory alternative and complement to its ambulance services.
“We dispatch the chariots at the same time as an ambulance,” said Michael Simonsen, director of public affairs at SDMSE. “They’re more maneuverable than a full-service ambulance. People don’t always move out of the way of an ambulance, so it’s a nice enhancement.”
SDMSE is a public-private limited liability partnership between the city and Rural/Metro Ambulance Corp., a Scotts & #173;dale, Ariz.-based medical transportation provider that supplies services to 400 communities in the United States.
In fiscal year 2007, San Diego Medical Services Enterprise generated $41 million in revenue with $2.75 million in profit, according to Reema Makani, public relations specialist. The profit is split between the city and publicly traded Rural/Metro Ambulance Corp.
SDMSE responds to 9-1-1 calls within the city of San Diego and serves the communities of Encinitas, Solana Beach, Del Mar, Rancho Santa Fe and Elfin Forest.
SDMSE, which employs a staff of more than 450, was awarded the city contract in 1997.
The chariot program, which Simonsen says he thinks will eventually be expanded, was first brought to the company’s attention by SDMSE’s special events manager, John Reisdorfer. For each call, a chariot and an ambulance will be dispatched.
“We looked at quite a few different products,” he said. “This product best served our needs. We tested them at last year’s (Oakland) Raiders and Chargers games.”
Average staffing at a Chargers game at Qualcomm Stadium includes 10 paramedics and emergency medical technicians, or EMTs, two nurses, one doctor, four ambulances and, now, two chariots, according to Simonsen. SDMSE will employ two additional staff members , either a paramedic or EMT , at each event where the chariots are used.
SDMSE also plans to incorporate the chariots to the medical standby coverage for the dozens of events it covers at locations such as Petco Park, Cox Arena and the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
“At large events, it gives us the ability to get a paramedic or EMT to a person in need a little quicker,” Simonsen said.
The chariots themselves are lightweight, electric vehicles with three wheels that require the single rider to stand, according to David Joseph Lacagnina, president of American Chariot Co. They are being picked up by military, police and security forces across the nation, including at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in North County.
“We’ve had a constant growth pattern,” said Lacagnina, since the company was founded in 2000. “It’s becoming more accepted. Last year, we had to tell people what the application is. This year, they know. This industry is a growing market.”
19 Miles Per Hour
SDMSE purchased the security and police model that can carry up to 450 pounds and travel up to 19 mph. Emergency medical transportation providers in Washington, D.C., and Kansas are using the same models, according to Lacagnina.
“In terms of a trend, you can respond in a crowded situation quickly, efficiently,” he added. “It’s not like a bike because you’re not winded.”
Although the service will be added at no cost to current clients, SDMSE has plans to eventually charge for it as a separate service, according to Makani. SDMSE provides special events services by contract and the cost is based on the type of equipment used and the number of personnel staffed for the event.
SDMSE also looked at Segway Personal Transporters, a self-balancing transporter with two wheels.
American Medical Response also provides medical standby services at events in San Diego County, although it has not added any chariots or similar transportation to its fleet, according to Katie Keach, director of government affairs. She says that when AMR bid on the emergency services contract for Petco Park, the company had talked about adding Segways to the fleet.
“We decided to make the purchase earlier this year and we included it in our budget,” Simonsen said. “It’s something the special events manager has been advocating for a year now.”
Another aspect of the chariots is that maintenance costs will be low, considering that they are electric and are not used 24 hours a day, seven days a week like ambulances, Simonsen said. Batteries can be changed in less than a minute.
“We’re really excited,” he said. “We’re continually looking at ways of getting better. We’re in the business of taking care of people and we do what we can to do that.”