You clicks could help save lives in the next major storm. 

The Galveston County Office of Emergency Management is among 25 communities participating in a Facebook contest that will award a stretcher conversion kit to agency that receives the most votes.

The conversion kit can be used to turn a school bus into a large-capacity ambulance, with room for up to 20 stretchers. The contest is being run First Line Technology, a Virginia-based company that sells emergency response equipment. 

David Popoff, the county’s director of emergency management, said a volunteer who found it online entered the agency into the contest. As of Monday afternoon, the Office of Emergency Management was in second place, behind only Red Rock Search and Rescue, a rescue service operated out of Las Vegas, Nev.

The city of West, Texas – which lost two ambulances during the April 17 fertilizer plant explosion there — is also participating in the contest.

Popoff said that a conversion kit would be an asset to the county, especially during large or mass casualty events

“We have enough ambulances to handle day-to-day operations,” Popoff said. “Where we get into problems is in mass evacuations.” 

It would take about 250 ambulances to perform a mandatory evacuation in Galveston County right now, Popoff said. A converted bus would help with evacuations from places like nursing homes.

Jennie Williams, the marketing manager for First Line Technologies, said that two people could install the kit into a school bus in under two hours. It can be a temporary installation or be screwed in permanently. Williams said the kit could also be used outside of a bus as a mobile bedding area.

The kit normally costs $35,000. A fully customized ambulance bus, like those used by the Red Cross, can cost more than $500,000.

You can vote for Galveston OEM, or any of the other communities, by going to www.AmbuBusGiveaway.com. The page will prompt you to “like” it on Facebook, and then allow you to vote for your choice. Voting closes on Sept. 20. The winner will be announced on Oct. 1.

Contact reporter John Wayne Ferguson at 409-683-5226 or john.ferguson@galvnews.com.

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