Ford rescue concept truck pressed into service to help tornado victims

From show floor to evacuation route, one concept vehicle got the chance to test it's meddle in the real world.

The Ford F-550 Super Duty Rescue Truck was created to demonstrate extreme rescue capabilities not actually use them. It first went on display in February at the Chicago Auto Show.

But on April 3, with just two miles on its odometer, this concept vehicle found itself in the thick of a real-life rescue mission. A series of devastating tornadoes had ripped through Arlington, Texas, overwhelming every fire-rescue department in the region. Destruction was everywhere.

Worse yet, many of the neighborhood streets were filled with debris ranging from roofs to cars and the big fire trucks couldn't maneuver through them.

That's when Brad Snyder, vice president of marketing at NewScope Marketing in Grandbury, Texas, got a call the Arlington emergency services director for help. The director knew the local volunteer fire department had advised Snyder on building an extreme rescue vehicle for Ford Motor Co. and now the city needed its help.

"When we proposed the truck to Ford, one of the things Ford required was that everything on the truck actually work," Snyder said Tuesday. That's not always the case with concept vehicles, which often could not even qualify to ride on a U.S. highway.

"We never intended to put it into service," Snyder said. But put it to work they did. Keep on reading to find out how.
Snyder personally got behind the wheel and taking it to some of the hardest hit spots in Arlington. Unlike the big fire-rescue vehicles, the F-550, powered by Ford's 6.7-liter Powerstroke diesel, was able to move through the rubble.

"We assisted with tagging houses and making sure no one was still inside some of them," Snyder said. All told, Snyder helped with more than 100 houses in the Arlington area.

The truck is equipped with thermal imaging devices that can pickup a person's body heat nearly a half-mile away. Additionally, there a big lighting rig on the truck, which Snyder said was used to light both sides of a street during the night when no one else had power.

There's also a full generator big enough to run a house, as well as lots of medical supplies and emergency gear firefighters could use to clear debris and dig out survivors. Snyder also provided food and water to fire fighters and others in need.

"It also has a Doppler radar, which came in handy, so we could keep an eye on the weather around us," Snyder said.

The truck, which would cost about $150,000 to buy, worked from about 4 p.m. until 2 a.m. and then headed back to the NewScope garage, Snyder said. It will return to its cushy job touring car shows after it's cleaned up.

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