Gaston & Catawba

Doctor tests ‘green' EMS vehicle

A recent study by a forward-thinking Morganton doctor could help make emergency medical response vehicles more fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly.

Dr. Seth Hawkins, Blue Ridge HealthCare emergency medical services coordinator, recently completed a two-year study on the use of gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles for emergency medical response. Hawkins' study appears in the July issue of the Journal of Emergency Medical Services, a national publication reporting on out-of-hospital care.

“Public agencies like EMS operate on tight budgets and yet are obligated to keep vehicles on the road every day of the year. This makes fuel efficiency and the rising cost of gasoline particularly important issues for them,” Hawkins said.

Hawkins and staff at Burke County Emergency Medical Services began the study in November 2005 using a 2006 Ford Escape Hybrid as a part-time “quick response vehicle.” Quick response vehicles are used to transport staff and equipment, but not patients.

Hawkins said that since Burke County Emergency Medical Services personnel normally use their own vehicles, he bought the Escape and now uses it as his personal transportation.

Hawkins said the study provided answers to skeptics that have discouraged the use of mid-size hybrid vehicles for emergency medical purposes. The study shows that:

A hybrid engine can withstand the demands of emergency quick response driving with similar reliability to other emergency vehicles now in service.

A mid-size hybrid vehicle had the engine power needed to respond quickly to emergencies.

A hybrid gasoline-electric engine offers enough electrical power to run lights and sirens.

“A lot of people didn't believe it was possible,” said Hawkins. “Now we've proved that it works.”

The most significant challenges in using the hybrid were smaller carrying and towing capacity, said Hawkins.

The study shows that a hybrid quick response vehicle is cheaper to buy and could cut fuel costs and greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent when compared to standard models. The study vehicle was also much quieter than traditional models, Hawkins said, which he added is helpful both at emergency scenes and for overall noise pollution in a community.

Hawkins' article also suggests exploring the use of alternative fuel sources such as biodiesel and alternative engines such as full electrical engines for emergency medical vehicles.

He said plans are in the works to begin a second phase of the study that would explore the use of a dedicated, full-time hybrid vehicle.

Abused dog puts animal cruelty issue in spotlight

A brutally abused pit bull terrier has recently brought the issue of animal cruelty to the spotlight in Burke County.

Several weeks ago an unidentified woman left a severely injured pit bull terrier with Burke County Animal Control. Staff there sent the dog, named Phantom, on to Burke County Friends for Animals.

According to Burke County Friends for Animals Director Toni Davis, when Phantom arrived he had no lips or nose and had numerous scars on the rest of his body.

Davis said that Burke County Friends for Animals cruelty inspector Ed Davis believed that the animal had been used as a “bait dog” to help train fighting dogs.

Burke County Friends for Animals supporter David Coffin contacted his veterinarian, Dr. Mark McMahon of Burke Animal Clinic in Morganton, to see what could be done to help Phantom. McMahon and Dr. Alan Moss of Unifour Veterinarian Surgical Associates in Hickory worked together on a pro bono basis to surgically repair Phantom's mouth and lips.

Toni Davis said that Phantom is recovering well from his surgeries. “He looks wonderful,” said Davis. “He has lips now.” Davis said Phantom would soon have another surgery where part of his paw will be used to reconstruct his nose.

Burke County Friends for Animals supporters are using Phantom as a “poster dog” to bring attention to the need for stricter laws on dog fighting. Volunteer and board member Peg de Marco and other supporters traveled to Washington, D.C., last week to meet with state legislators and attend a conference on animal cruelty issues.

Using Phantom's story, de Marco and the others gathered more than 350 endorsement letters in less than two weeks to support their lobby for stronger dog fighting legislation.

As for Phantom, Burke County Friends for Animals is taking applications from people who would like to give the special needs dog a good home. Toni Davis said that despite his experiences, Phantom is gentle and doesn't seem fearful of other dogs. His favorite toys, she said, are stuffed animals.

For more information on Phantom and Burke County Friends for Animals efforts to lobby for stricter dog fighting laws, visit www.burkecounty

Area teens fan out as community volunteers

For three days this month, a large group of Burke County teenagers gave up their summer free time to lend a hand to local non-profit organizations and service agencies.

July 8-10, a group of 171 campers ages 12-18 participated in the South Mountain Baptist Camp's annual Youth Mission Camp, according to camp assistant director Mischia Tinnin.

The youth were sent in smaller teams to do volunteer work at organizations in Burke and Catawba counties including Blue Ridge Community Action, the Salvation Army, the Pregnancy Care Center, Options, New Beginnings, the Christian Outreach Center, the Family Care Center and Habitat for Humanity.

Marsha Logan, a staff member at the Christian Outreach Center in Morganton, said that around 20 campers came out from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on each of the three service days to sort clothing in the center's clothing warehouse.

The teens gathered piles of donated clothing and sorted it all according to size. This was a big task, Logan said, that desperately needed to be done. “They did an awesome job,” said Logan. “They really knocked a huge dent in getting it all sorted.”

Morganton public works director retires from Guard

After 20 years of service, Morganton Public Works Director Scott Lookadoo retired on May 28 from the N.C. National Guard.

Lookadoo began his military career in 1980 when he graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He joined the National Guard in 1988 and commanded the 1450th Transportation Company during the Gulf War.

For the past five years, Lookadoo has written logistics plans for how the N.C. National Guard will assist with disasters and run large-scale response operations.

He said the most rewarding part of his career was the three months he spent helping with recovery after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 where he served as deputy logistics officer for Taskforce Pelican.

“I was able to use the experience we have in North Carolina managing hurricane-like emergencies to help the response efforts in Louisiana,” he said.

For his work and leadership with the recovery efforts, Lookadoo received the Meritorious Service Medal.

Lookadoo, who achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel, said his loved ones are happy to have him around more.

“My family will be glad that I can finally take a vacation with them,” Lookadoo said. “I really appreciate their patience and support over the years.”