SOMERTON -- A small but mighty department, serving some of the most remote parts of Belmont County, was recently able to purchase new equipment to help them serve residents there. The Somerton Emergency Squad recently purchased a new 2017 ambulance for $220,000 from Burgess Ambulance Sales, Inc. with a loan through WesBanco in Barnesville.

The Somerton EMS department, which was the first established in Western Belmont County in 1973, has eight to nine EMTs. Its fire department, which was established decades before, currently has 15 volunteer firemen.

"We still get fairly serious calls because the people in our coverage area are more hesitant to call the squad," said EMS squad captain Derek Stewart. "We pride ourselves on almost never missing a call."

Assistant Chief Steve Clark added, "Even though we are a small department, there is still a strong sense of volunteering in Somerton."

The new ambulance, that paramedic Roy Clark described as "very modern" is equipped with many high tech features including a Stryker load system, a cot and loading system that reduces sprain and strain for EMTs by lowering to the ground for the patient, rising to the level of the ambulance, and then loading into it. The ambulance also has a back up system with a camera and a sound system that allows the driver to see and hear what is behind the ambulance.

Inside the back of the ambulance, a blue light can be turned on to help calm patients with high anxiety. Buttons on the wall can also communicate the status of the patient to the driver so that they know if they need to drive faster. An exhaust system can suck smells out of the air; the interior and floors are made of material that will be easier to clean, and a lock box for drugs needs only a keypad code to be opened.

"We are very thankful and appreciative," Stewart said.