As the hour crept past three in the afternoon, New Orleans’ French Quarter was devoid of tourists and locals alike. The heat index was over 105 degrees.
New Orleans Emergency Medical Services has been busy this summer, responding to heat-related emergency calls and transporting patients to nearby hospitals.
At the city’s main ambulance depot, the concrete parking lot seemed to magnify the sweltering heat, circulating the air like a convection oven. Capt. Janick Lewis and Lt. Titus Carriere demonstrated there how they can load a stretcher into an ambulance using an automated loading system. Lewis wiped sweat from his brow as the loading arm whirred and hummed, raising the stretcher into the ambulance — “unit,” in official terminology.
But mechanical assistance isn’t the best thing about the upgraded vehicles. “The nicest thing about being assigned a brand-new unit is it has a brand-new air conditioning system,” Lewis said.
The new AC is much more than a luxury for the hard-working crews. They need the extra cooling power to help save lives.
“The No. 1 thing you do take care of somebody is get them out of the heat, get them somewhere cool,” Lewis said. “So the No. 1 thing we spend our time worrying about in the summertime is keeping the truck cool.”
Like much of the country, New Or …