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Tampa Bay and Sarasota's Leading Local News: Weather, Traffic, Sports and more | Tampa Bay and Sarasota, FL | WTSP.com

County bus converted into a mass casualty unit

The retrofitted bus is called RAPTOR and stands for Rapid, Activation, Patient Treatment or Rehab.

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. — Manatee County Emergency Services has a good solution for handling emergencies with many patients. It’s called “RAPTOR,” and it’s saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars and saving lives.

EMS recently won the Regional Innovation Award for Commitment to Preparedness and Resiliency given by the Tampa Regional Planning Council. This week it was used to treat its first patients.

“RAPTOR stands for Rapid, Activation, Patient Treatment or Rehab,” explains Jason Evans, Manatee County’s EMS District Chief. He adds, “It’s really like a Swiss Army knife tool for us.”

Manatee County EMS converted a transit bus into a mobile mass casualty unit. In the back of the bus are six removable bed bunks to triage patients. 

EMS has the tools they need from syringes and bandages to oxygen tanks and the ability to monitor vitals. Evans adds, “We have it all at our fingertips.”

The RAPTOR rolled up on a large warehouse fire Monday and just at the right time. The unit was used at its full potential for the first time.

“We had multiple personnel on scene, it was a humid day. We used Raptor to rehab and bring firefighters in to cool them off, test their vital signs make sure they’re ready to get back into the fight,” Evans said. They also treated two burn patients and prepared them for transport to the hospital.

EMS retrofitted the county bus for just $32,000. Manatee County EMS District Chief Jason Evans says a new bus made for the same use would cost half a million dollars.

“It’s a much-needed resource in the community," Evans said. "It allows us to respond to a multi-casualty event with lots of patients like a vehicle accident on the interstate, a natural disaster anything with lots of patients such as an active shooter event." 

The bus worked so well during Monday’s fire the county plans on retrofitting another one. 

“Every time we use it, we come up with more ideas to make the vehicle better,” Evans added. 

Chief Evans says one of those improvements includes adding a generator, so they can operate the AC system without having to run the engine.

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