Reporter: Melinda Zosh
Daleville, VA - A Botetourt County rescue squad has created a mobile learning unit. The Blue Ridge Volunteer Rescue Squad has converted an old ambulance into a simbulance. Officials say the program is one of the first of its kind in the state.
It's a story of some volunteers who were really thinking outside the box. They applied for a grant last year on behalf of 105 agenices in Western Virginia. Then, the Virginia Department of Health and the state's EMS office stepped in. Now, $110,000 later, their old ambulance, has come back to life.
It all started with a simple idea to save an old ambulance.
"This project was much more than buying a simulator and sticking it in an old ambulance. I mean, we really did a ground up approach to trying to re-invent something," said Colt Hagmaier, member of the Blue Ridge Volunteer Rescue Squad.
It's the start of the Blue Ridge volunteer Rescue squad's simbulance program. For the first time, EMTs in training will learn right inside the simbulance.
"You can do basic things like take vital signs and it gives a realism, because you can actually drive down the road," said Robert Johnson, Botetourt Co. Emergency Services.
They'll be practicing on a simulator called Hal. Medical experts say it's the the next best thing to practicing on a real person.
"When you put him in an ambulance, hook him up to the monitor that you would normally have and use and have equipment that's normally here, it becomes a very realistic scenario," said Jim Kistner, a retired anesthesiologist.
And there's an HD camera and other equipment installed inside the simbulance. Students can even playback their practices on Hal and learn from their mistakes. Virginia's Secretary of Public Safety Marla Decker says this concept is one of a kind.
"Because it's mobile and because you can literally take it anywhere in your region, it makes it very cost effective for the regions," said Decker.
Soon, the simulator will hit the road. It'll travel as far as Rockbridge County, west of Bedford and south to Martinsville.
"It's the first time we've had something right in our backyard that the whole region, Southwest Virginia will be able to take advantage of," said Johnson.
Officials say they have a couple more finishing touches to add before the simbulance hits the road. They'll be sending four people to Miami this October for mobile unit training. The goal is to get the simbulance fully running sometime later this fall.