In 2009, the Chicago Fire Department (CFD) identified a need to simultaneously treat multiple stable fire and inhalation victims who require oxygen, whether due to a previous medical condition or as the result of an acute event, such as evacuation of any building, hospital, health care facility or treatment facility, due to fires or other hazards. The solution needed to be mobile, allowing responders to provide oxygen services during emergencies anywhere in the Chicago area.
Partnering with the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) and the Chicago Health System Coalition for Preparedness and Response (the Coalition), the CFD brainstormed solutions to address the oxygen needs of victims during a disaster or emergency. Partners believed that a city bus would provide the mobile capability and accommodating space they needed. With the support of CDPH and the Coalition, the CFD approached the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) to obtain a bus.
As the CTA purchases new buses yearly, they were generous in response to the CFD request and donated one of the out-of-service city buses to the project. Once the transit bus was donated, an operations plan was written detailing how the bus will be used during medical evacuation scenarios and other events requiring respiratory therapy for patients. Emergency Medical Services staff from the CDF were also trained on how to operate the bus.
The Coalition’s Medical Evacuation Committee was charged with identifying equipment and supply needs. Using funds from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR), Office of Preparedness and Emergency Operations (OPEO), Hospital Preparedness Program (HPP), the Coalition purchased equipment and supplies necessary for respiratory therapy and support during evacuation scenarios, including modulators for multiple oxygen use, nebulizers, oxygen masks, AED's, stair chairs for moving patients from treatment facilities or buildings, ALS drugs and special emergency lighting. The equipment ensures that oxygen and other respiratory therapy is available immediately upon patient evacuation from a hospital, nursing home or other building.
The retrofitted bus can accommodate thirty-five people and is available for the City in emergency situations including, but not limited to, hospital evacuation to treat stable patients with oxygen and nebulizer prior to transportation, long term care facility evacuation for treatment of stable patients with oxygen prior to placement and transport to another facility, building fires to treat victims who may need oxygen and nebulizer treatment, warming or cooling bus for patients prior to treatment, assistance with evacuating special needs populations who cannot get out of a building and treatment for oxygen dependent children in specialized children treatment facilities that need to be evacuated.
One great benefit of using an old transit bus is that it is able to travel to and through any city neighborhood, as the bus was originally designed and utilized for mass transit throughout the city.
The cross disciplinary partnership between the Coalition, CPHD, CFD and CTA created a unique synergy; using locally available resources to address the respiratory needs of patients and victims during an emergency over a wide geographic area.