June 1st of 2020, Penn Fire place a new ambulance in service at Station 13 on McKinley. Department members had been working on the specifications and budget for the unit for more than a year. It was built by the PL Custom company in Manasquan, New Jersey, and sold by Crossroads Ambulance in Middlebury, Indiana. Medic 13 is state-of-the-art, full of amazing features, including a built-in cooling compartment, which extends the life of some medications carried on board.
The Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Division of the Penn Township Fire Department is a very big and very busy part of what we do. There are currently only 11 paramedic ambulances for the entire St. Joseph County area (not counting volunteer Basic EMT services in the towns of Lakeville, New Carlisle, North Liberty & Walkerton). There are 38 firehouses. That means it is much more likely that a fire truck is closer to you at any time than an ambulance. So, with that thinking, the system is designed that whenever anyone calls 911 for a medical emergency, the closest fire engine is sent to the scene at the same time as a paramedic unit, to provide immediate care to a patient while the ambulance is still enroute.
The Penn Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Services Division has undergone massive change since the days when First Responders answered calls with not much more than an orange First-Aid box and a resuscitator.
The new Medic 13 was designed to allow the paramedic riding with the patient to be able to perform all critical tasks while seated and belted.
Penn Fire has been a leader in providing EMS, from the early days in the 1970s, when fire departments became much more than just firefighters. Following the implementation of a first response program in the 1970s, Penn progressed in the 1990s to the first early defibrillation program in St. Joseph County, aimed at providing heart attack victims with rapid intervention, as a paramedic ambulance traveled from South Bend or Mishawaka.
Starting in 1997, Penn Fire hosted a county-subsidized paramedic ambulance at our station on McKinley Highway. In 2012, the Township Board and the Fire Department Administration decided it was in the best interests of the township residents to implement the township’s own full-time paramedic ambulance. The ambulance would be exclusively dedicated to Penn Township residents. It would also allow for two more firefighters to be on duty each day, at no additional expense to the residents.
In July of 2012, Penn Fire launched a full-time paramedic service, with a paramedic-staffed SUV at our Jackson Road station. We followed that in October of 2012, with a 24/7 ambulance based at our McKinley Highway station. The new services have proved to be a dramatic success. Penn paramedics have provided life-saving interventions in dozens of cases in the first several months since the service was launched.