Land Purchase Approved For REACT Rover Base


September 3, 2020

Alex Sloan

REACT Director Wilis Snowden

The REACT Rover which services the southern half of the county will be getting a permanent base of operations thanks to the approval of a land purchase at this week's county commission meeting.

The board of commissioners approved $5,000 to purchase one acre of land, where the new React Rover Housing will soon be installed. For more information on the meeting, see this week's county commission story.

According to the coverage maps that hang on the hallway walls of REACT's main building, the ambulance service covers all of Pottawatomie County, and stretches into parts of neighboring counties.

Willis Snowden, Director of REACT, sat down with The Countywide & Sun following the commissioners' decision to approve the purchase to explain why the Rover is so important to the southern half of the county.

Snowden said in 2017, the ambulance service in Wanette pulled out of the county.

"The county commissioners came to us and said 'what are we going to do?'" Snowden said. "People down there feel like they've been abandoned, so on and so forth. Well the automatic knee-jerk reaction is 'We need to put an ambulance in Asher.'"

Snowden said they told the commissioners that outfitting a whole ambulance to operate in the Southern part of the county would be an unnecessary expense. He said if the ambulance had to transport to a hospital, they'd be away from the service area for at least an hour, just going to the hospital and back. So, Willis said, the REACT Rover was born.

"Where they stay and where they roam, you know they can get to Wanette in 10 minutes, 15 minutes," Willis said. "They can get to Asher in seven usually, where they're sitting."

He said this was a major improvement over the hypothetical thirty or so minutes it would take an ambulance to drive from Shawnee.

Snowden said the REACT Rover has all the equipment and functionality of a standard ambulance, except for the cot and ability to transport.

"So they're basically a free-standing one-person army down there, and they can do everything," Snowden said. "They can shock you, they can intubate you, they can do all kinds of stuff."

He said with the REACT Rover responding to calls in the southern half of the county, REACT can cut out a lot of the inefficiencies of stocking a single ambulance to service the area.

Whenever the Rover gets a call, Snowden said, a standard ambulance heads that direction in case they need transport. But often when the Rover arrives on scene, he said it's able to handle the call and the ambulance doesn't have to complete the trip.

Snowden said that the Rover system is the most efficient way to service a rural area that doesn't really produce that many calls. He said the county commissioners have been very supportive of the program, and help cover the cost of staffing the Rover.

"Does it cost money?" Snowden said. "Yeah. Everything costs money, but I think it's worth it."

Snowden said the approval of the land purchase by the commissioners Monday would only further their presence in the community.

"One of the big selling points is a paramedic will be in the southern part of the county every hour of the day for the seven days, that they're scheduled for," Snowden said.

By having a paramedic regularly in the area, Snowden said, they become establishment in that community.

He said as soon as the land purchase is finalized, the county is prepared to help move the mobile home to the property, and REACT will get the utilities hooked in and pay the bills.

"A good thing will be that it'll help keep the miles off the truck from sitting there idling all the time," Snowden said.

He said REACT already has a mobile home from a previous construction project that they plan to put on the property.

The mobile home will give them a space to work while they aren't on the road, but Snowden said the Rover paramedics will continue to regularly patrol the community.

"They're still going to do their roaming, and go to the senior citizens centers and places like that," Snowden said.

He said the next plan for REACT will be installing a Rover to patrol the north half of the county as well. COVID-19 had put a damper on the plans, but Snowden said he'd like to get it back on track.

Even people who aren't directly serviced by the Rover benefit from its existence, Snowden said. He said the Rover can often determine within minutes of arriving on scene whether an additional ambulance will be needed. Since a lot of these calls end up being non-transports, other trucks aren't drawn away from their patrol areas, Snowden said.

"When the Tecumseh truck doesn't have to drive all the way down there itself and do that," Snowden said, "it can stay up closer towards Tecumseh where it's the busiest."


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