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EMS Classics is a feature column I write for Canadian Paramedicine.

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EMSClassics.com Column

Smith's Ambulance attendants use a Ferno model 30 cot to load a patient into their 1973 Oldsmobile in Edmonton, Alberta

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Column 43 October/November 2013

One-Man vs. Two-Man

In 1967 when I began work at Ray's Ambulance Service in Saskatoon, our city cars were equipped with a Ferno model 30 Two-Man cot while our country car had a Ferno model 26 One-Man cot. (The name given these cots was politically correct at the time as ambulance work was predominantly a male occupation). The battle over One-Man versus Two-Man cots was ongoing, each type having advantages and disadvantages.

Cots used by ambulance services early in the past century were made of heavy steel and were of non-elevating design. It took two strong men to lift a cot and patient into and out of an ambulance and then again to lift the patient from floor level up to the hospital bed.

In 1949 Dick Ferneau, founder and co-owner of Ferno-Washington in Wilmington, Ohio pioneered the use of aluminum tubing rather than steel to build ambulance cots, greatly reducing the weight medics had to carry.

He next invented the One-Man roll-in ambulance cot which immediately became popular as it made it easy for one man, on his own, to roll a cot and patient into and out of an ambulance and to deliver the patient to the height of a hospital bed.

Ambulance operators in smaller locales especially favored One-Man cots because using them eliminated the hassle of trying to find a second man to go along on an ambulance call; this also reduced the operator's expense for wages.

In 1958 another significant development in ambulance cots appeared when Dick Ferneau invented the X-frame model 30 Two-Man cot. This cot quickly became popular with city services as it was a variable height design.

I remember being told of the origin of the design of the X-frame cot during a meeting of Ferno distributors in Wilmington. Apparently Dick Ferneau had been grappling for months with the challenge of designing a Two-Man cot that also was multi-level. One evening he and Ferno co-owner Elroy Bourgraf had a business meeting around the kitchen table at the home of their company secretary. She decided to do some ironing while they talked. She removed an ironing board from the cabinet, pulled the lever and the X-frame legs lowered to the appropriate height. Dick observed this and said "that's how I'm going to build our new cot".

The next day he built the first Two-Man Multi-Level cot. One of the advantages of the Multi-Level cot was the ability to select a mid-height making it easier to lift patients onto and off of the cot. As well, the cot could be lowered to an appropriate height for a walking patient to get on and off the cot, eliminating the need for additional lifting.

Dick Ferneau went on to invent numerous other models of ambulance cots and Ferno-Washington went on to dominate the patient handling market in 100 countries throughout the world. But I wonder which model was more popular - One-Man or Two-Man?

Copyright 2013 Peter Adsten