American Red Cross tests new emergency vehicles

By Alyssa Donovan

January 29, 2013 Updated Jan 30, 2013 at 10:54 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- The Central Illinois Chapter of the American Red Cross is testing out some new wheels.

As a new emergency response vehicle is getting ready to hit the market, the Red Cross has deployed one of its ERV prototypes to Central Illinois to be evaluated for national use.

Central Illinois is one of 22 Red Cross regions testing the new vehicle across the U.S. The vehicles will replace the older models that are deployed for disasters like home fires, tornadoes, and floods and used for relief meal delivery.

"The vehicle is a different size it's basically an over-sized van as opposed to the old ambulance vehicle that we've been using for years," said American Red Cross Regional Emergency Services Director Alyssa Pollock. "One of the reasons we looked at redesigning it is because that old vehicle is hard to find parts for and they're not even actually making that model anymore."

The older response vehicles were much bigger and much more difficult for volunteers to drive. The newer slimmer vehicles have rear cameras and make volunteers jobs a lot easier.

"One of the features we are really excited about is a camber loading system, which will allow us to take the big food containers and put them on a ramp and load it and it will mean less heavy lifting for our volunteers," said Pollock.

On Tuesday, area volunteers were able to drive the vehicle, check out all of the new features and give feedback on how to make it even more effective.

One volunteer said he already had some suggestions.

"The one that we noticed this morning right away when I got in it was that we could use a handle on the side door so we can get in and out of it a lot easier," said Red Cross volunteer Paul Soebbing of Quincy.

That kind of feedback is exactly why the Red Cross wanted to have real volunteers test the prototypes.

After the vehicles have been assessed, they will be redesigned and sold to American Red Cross regions throughout the U.S.

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