Emergency repairs approved for Broken Arrow’s dwindling ambulance supply


By John Dobberstein, Editor

Broken Arrow city councilors on Monday approved approximately $67,000 for emergency repairs for two ambulances, after a rare combination of breakdowns and supply-chain issues has severely hampered the Broken Arrow Fire Department (BAFD).

BAFD Chief Jeremy Moore told councilors that only 1 of 6 new ambulances purchased in the last year has arrived in Oklahoma due to “significant” supply chain delays. Supply issues are also affected the department’s ability to get replacement parts.

The city will pay $66,910 to Holt Truck Centers for emergency repair engines for unit numbers 1466 and 1467, which have both experienced significant mechanical malfunctions requiring new engines. Both are International Terrastar ambulances which were built in 2014.

Moore said the two ambulances are still “critical” units for the city immediate repair was in the “best interest of the citizens of Broken Arrow” and “needed to protect the public health, safety and welfare and ensure public safety.”

Generally, BAFD expects 5 years of frontline usage followed by 5 years of reserve use. The city considered legal action against the manufacturer of the 2014s, but ultimately it was determined that the supporting evidence was inconclusive.

The city of Broken Arrow owns 15 ambulances. The purchase of new ambulances was needed to complete a 2017 plan implemented by BAFD to replace 12 ambulances “with consistent and reliable units.

“The ambulance deficiency has been accelerated because the four 2014 ambulances that were purchased were inferior products that have experienced greater mechanical problems than other units,” Moore said in memo. “This has led to increased out-of-service time and shorter operational life than normal for the 2014s.”

The problems hit critical mass in late July, Moore said. On July 27, 6 of 15 ambulances were not operational. The following day, two more units had mechanical malfunctions, leaving only 7 ambulances available for frontline use.

BAFD strives to operate at least 8 ambulances daily to adequately serve Broken Arrow residents, with at least 3-4 units in reserve on stand-by.

“During these drastic summer temperatures, air conditioners are continuously in disrepair, units experience normal mechanical malfunctions, and preventative maintenance also removes units from the frontline,” Moore said. “Coupled with the aging fleet and difficulty acquiring repair parts and equipment has placed a severe tax on our system,” Moore wrote.

“The Fleet Maintenance Division is doing an excellent job, but parts acquisition is a true crisis.”

Ryan Baze, director of Maintenance Services, said getting parts in to repair models built from 2018 to 2021 has been very difficult. He also noted the design of some diesel engines used in ambulance rigs has changed due to emissions requirements, which has reduced their life expectancy and made them basically throw-away units when they fail.

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