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Rugged and Remote

In December 2020 EMS World held its first “Best Ambulance Design” contest and solicited services from across the country to send in a photo of their ambulance with an explanation of its design. Dozens of agencies submitted entries, and hundreds of EMS World readers voted on the designs.

After the votes were tallied, Nevada’s Humboldt General Hospital EMS Rescue emerged as the hands-down winner, receiving more than 40% of the vote.

“The unit is simple but stands apart with the unique color and pop from the yellow striping,” explains Drew Hooker, MPA, NRP, CCPM, PD, IC, deputy chief of HGH EMS Rescue. “It is set apart from others due to its simple yet beautiful exterior.” But the vehicle’s dramatic color scheme is only the surface of what it offers.

No Two Shifts the Same

Humboldt General Hospital has served north-central Nevada for over 100 years. HGH EMS Rescue is the exclusive hospital-based 9-1-1 provider of 24-hour EMS across 10,000 square miles in Nevada and the lower portion of Oregon, in addition to mutual aid arrangements with outlying areas.

HGH EMS Rescue responds to about 2,100 calls for service a year with a fleet of six ambulances, two rescue units, and an interfacility transport truck. EMS staff includes more than 50 paramedics, EMS RNs, EMTs, and AEMTs.

HGH EMS Rescue operates out of two stations and partners with MedX AirOne for air transports. The heavy-duty Dodge Ram chassis on HGH ambulances are built to handle Nevada’s rugged topography. HGH’s ambulances and rescue vehicles are stocked with more equipment and designed with more storage space than you’d find on vehicles of larger, urban-based systems, says Hooker.

Because the crews are often the only response vehicles on accident scenes, HGH EMS Rescue must be prepared for extrications, high-angle rescues, hard-to-access terrain, and hazmat scenes requiring SCBAs. No two shifts are the same. Crews work in mountainous terrain, sand dunes, unpaved roads, and adverse weather conditions. “The climate is very diverse and very beautiful. But it comes with a unique set of dangers and risks,” says Hooker.

Crews can be hours away from Humboldt General Hospital or the nearest trauma center, which often poses logistical challenges for the open landscape, which attracts hikers, ATV operators, RVs, skiers, and outdoor enthusiasts to the area year-round. “They have to be ready for anything,” Hooker says of his providers.

Another challenge is long-distance interfacility transports, which can require multiple patients and take crews out of service for three hours or more. A trip can start in hot and arid salt flats and conclude in ice and blowing snow. In severe weather crews are often stationed at hotels between calls. 

“A lot of what we do is planning for these long-distance calls,” Hooker says. HGH EMS Rescue providers work 48-hour shifts and are off five straight days following. Recruitment can be difficult in a sparsely populated area, but once EMS providers get a taste of the unpredictability, autonomous decision-making, and incomparable landscape, retention is not an issue for HGH EMS, says Hooker.

Safety and Staff Input

HGH is planning a complete fleet replacement, including a redesign of the ambulances’ interiors to feature sliding seats, state-of-the-art restraint systems, and the latest in crew member safety systems. An ambulance committee made up of on-the-road employees and administration will ensure HGH’s crew members have the opportunity to provide input on functional design, says Hooker, whose passion lies in education and operations—one facet of the job that called him west to Nevada from Tennessee.

But the new vehicles will feature the tried-and-true exterior design Nevadans have come to know and trust. “We have a longstanding relationship with the community we serve,” says Hooker. “We will do everything we can to maintain that confidence in us.” 

Jonathan Bassett, MA, NREMT, is editorial director at EMS World. Reach him at 


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