RICHMOND, Va., March 1, 2016 – Dan Fellows, fleet manager of the Richmond Ambulance Authority (RAA), has won the national EMS10 Award for his innovative approach to using solar energy to supplement the electrical needs of ambulances. This award, presented at the 2016 EMS Today Conference by the Journal of Emergency Medical Services (JEMS), recognizes 10 individuals who have contributed to EMS in an exceptional and innovative way.
As fleet manager for RAA’s 40 ambulances, Fellows is responsible for the design and day-to-day operation of these vehicles, and he is constantly looking to for ways to improve efficiency. When faced with the problem of finding a reliable energy source for a RAA resource vehicle that did not have access to a shoreline power plug at the back of headquarters, Fellows decided to explore the use of solar panels to charge the unit.
“The solar panels installed on this unit did an excellent job of charging the battery needed to start the vehicle each morning so we decided to try solar panels on a standard ambulance to see if we would have similarly positive results,” said Fellows. “There were many factors to work through such as secure mounting and wiring the panels directly to the vehicle’s battery so the solar energy could power the ambulance’s entire electrical system. Others in the industry had dabbled with solar to charge individual component batteries, not the entire vehicle, and we have come close.”
RAA’s solar panels don’t generate enough energy to completely power the largest ambulances but do generate enough electricity to offset the energy requirements of the many onboard electronics such as the mobile communications systems, air quality control, mobile gateways, and computer chargers, all of which draw power. After offsetting the draw of the electronics on board, the solar energy provides about four additional amps of power to trickle charge the batteries. As a result, ambulances no longer high idle when parked between calls. While the solar panels don’t generate enough energy to allow the ambulances to be completely turned off between calls, the engine only needs to power the heating and A/C system; the solar panels power all the other electronics within the ambulance.
Before implementing solar-charging in all of RAA’s ambulances, Fellows tested an ambulance for almost a full year to collect data on its efficiency. The cost savings and positive environmental impact proved a winning combination.
“Dan is a creative manager who thinks outside the box and is constantly looking for solutions to improve efficiency,” said Chip Decker, CEO of the Richmond Ambulance Authority. “The use of solar panels on our ambulances has led to noticeable cost reductions. Battery life is extended, fuel is saved and the solar panels serve as a barrier so the vehicle absorbs less heat which reduces air conditioning demand in the summer. There is also the added benefit of reduced environmental impact. We are proud of Dan and happy to see his innovative approach to operational challenges recognized on a national level.”
“It is a tremendous honor to win an EMS10 Award,” said Fellows. “I am blessed to work with supervisors and senior staff who encourage experimentation and are willing to explore new ideas and methods. This culture of innovation at RAA – clinically and operationally – drives us all.”
This is the third EMS10 Award for the Richmond Ambulance Authority. COO Rob Lawrence and Operational Medical Director, Dr. Joseph Ornato are also recipients of this prestigious national award. Only two EMS organizations in the United States have three EMS 10 Awards – RAA and MedStar in Fort Worth, Texas.
About the Richmond Ambulance Authority
In 1991, the Richmond City Council and the city manager implemented an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) system that placed the patient first and guaranteed its performance to the City’s residents. Today, the Richmond Ambulance Authority responds to approximately 200 calls per day and transports, on average, 140 patients per day. RAA’s emergency response times are among the fastest in the nation with ambulances on the scene of life threatening emergencies in less than 8 minutes and 59 seconds in more than 90% of all responses. RAA is one of only 24 EMS agencies in North America accredited by both the Commission on the Accreditation of Ambulance Services and the National Academies of Emergency Dispatch. RAA is also a Commonwealth of Virginia Accredited Dispatch Center. For more information, see www.raaems.org.