Windy City

 

As long as I have been in a management position, one of my most difficult tasks has been maintaining efficiency without sacrificing quality or improvement of quality. I am sure we have all traveled the same roads in management and have all had to make tough choices.

About 10 years ago I decided to stop yelling and get involved in our local committees by establishing relationships with our local, state and federal officials. But as we have all experienced, I continued to hit road blocks with regard to funding. It was interesting to learn that there really isn't much in the way of funding, and I got the typical "EMS who? EMS what? I didn't know you existed" or, "I thought you were all volunteers." And finally, "But you charge for your services."

Being the level-headed guy I am (not), I stomped my feet and complained without making an inch of progress. The difficult part was being in the middle of the "tug of war" about bills received for services, employees wanting better pay and benefits to balance with the quality staffing that we all want and no response from those who can help but have a lack of interest and lack of funding. One of the best responses was from the office of an elected official who said that we just don't have a large enough voting body. How is that for an answer?

After changing my attitude I stepped back and started over, practicing what I preached. I sat down and started searching for solutions to our issues. Instead of constantly asking for funding, which did not work, I created specific avenues and tasks that, with assistance, would result in cost savings that would create a long-term effect.

GOING GREEN

One of the many programs was green energy. I looked at the energy consumption at our main station, dissected it, and then researched everything from solar energy and geothermal to wind energy. I evaluated everything from our thermostats and lighting to appliances and their usage.

During that time, I started writing grants to help us obtain solar panels, since the primary issue with solar energy was cost. The amount of money needed to install enough panels to make a difference was extreme, but my search for grants continued to come up empty. I then began researching the good and not-so-good wind-generation programs.

My initial objective was to purchase a vertical wind generator, which would have been ideal with our location and flat roof, but this also reached a dead end, mainly due to the lack of sufficient testing or current usage to be confident enough to invest in such a product. At this point, my outlook continued to dim, but after a great deal of research, I sat down with a state senator who had been helpful in the past to discuss grant avenues for such a product and explain what I wanted to do. He was very supportive and sent me to a local company that was developing a medium-sized windmill. One of the concerns was how this would be accepted locally, since the concept was new and there was no local ordinance regarding such a product in a populated town. With the blessing of our local officials, who remain very supportive, the grant paperwork was completed and submitted.

Today we are within months of constructing our windmill. As for dollars saved, we changed our thermostats and programmed the temperature to what was considered comfortable and reasonable among the staff, and locked them so they could not be tampered with. We reduced the amount of lighting being used and encouraged staff to participate positively by turning off lights and appliances when not being used and not opening windows when the heat/air conditioning is on, and we replaced some appliances with energy-efficient models. This alone cut our energy cost by nearly 20%.

This could not have been accomplished without the complete cooperation of our staff during what could have been the most difficult part of the project. We have done our best to educate our staff on being active participants, and being energy efficient has had a long-term effect on everyone. It's easy to understand that money saved can be utilized toward other needed purchases. I couldn't be more proud of how proactive our staff has been, even more so as they see the end benefit. I had already been making changes at home and adapted the changes into this plan. With the knowledge I gained during this project, I will continue to make changes at home to be even more efficient.

When the windmill is up and running, I expect to reduce our costs by at least another 30% or more, which, in dollars and cents, can be more than $4,000 a year.

CONCLUSION

With quality teamwork and a positive program presentation to become more energy efficient, we were able to save money that can be used better somewhere else. In a time when EMS needs to find avenues for funding, there is a way. I hope our experience will inspire you and your local officials to get involved with such programs. I continue to stay on point with a philosophy that we cannot continue to just ask for money; we need to present our issues with a plan of action. In our case, I presented an avenue with a long-term return that was much greater than the minimal investment. It's a gift that keeps giving back both to us and eventually to the communities we serve. Setting an example in your community is not such a bad thing.

Maybe in time, and with many voices, we will see future grant programs specifically for emergency services to develop energy-saving programs.

For additional information on windmill systems, visit OmniWind Energy Systems LLC.

Charles Pressler, EMT-P, is executive director for Central Bucks Ambulance and Rescue in Doylestown, PA.

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