UTVs have changed the world—there’s no doubt about that. What was once a niche vehicle commonly seen on farms and construction sites is now a mainstay everywhere you look. And side-by-sides no longer just make work easier—they’re now helping to save lives by acting as versatile and reliable emergency vehicles.
Police cruisers, Humvees, and ambulances are great for pavement and wide-open spaces. But what happens when tragedy strikes on the beach or in the middle of the woods? That’s where UTVs come into play. Let’s take a look at the modifications that make these machines so special and how they’re helping to keep you safe.
Our military is no stranger to cutting edge off-road vehicles. Names like “Jeep” and “Hummer” are military vehicles that have become synonymous with off-roading culture. UTVs, on the other hand, were civilian products that the military adapted. So what differentiates a military UTV from its civilian cousin?
Service members sometimes need to get to remote locations fast. Polaris’ military-specific MRZR has aircraft tie-down points connected to its frame to allow for safe transportation. It also has a folding roll cage, which is great when it comes to transporting the machine.
The infrared (IR) light is one of the MRZR’s most unique features. It emits a light that is invisible to the human eye but still allows night vision goggles to see in the dark. This lets service men and women carry out night maneuvers without having to use attention-drawing lights.
Police cars are perfect for patrolling the streets, but what happens when officers need to go beyond the pavement? Off-road vehicles are perfect in these types of situations. They allow law enforcement officers to reach hard-to-navigate places, making trails a safer place.
It takes more than lights and sirens to make a police UTV. In the name of convenience, police UTVs almost always have air conditioning, heat, and a full cab enclosure—crime doesn’t stop just because it’s too hot or too cold outside. Most also have 4WD, additional storage racks for gear, and specialized tires for easy cruising over unexpected terrain.
Side-by-sides that are equipped for the police usually come with some type of public address (PA) system, which comes in handy for crowd control situations. They also have built-in radios to stay in contact with 911 operators and extra safety features, like bulletproof glass or polycarbonate windshields and windows.
Like police officers, firefighters don’t always have the luxury of working in areas that are easily accessible. After all, fires can happen anywhere. It’s not uncommon for squads to need access to wildfires that happen in the middle of a forest.
That’s where UTVs come into play. More and more manufacturers are developing side-by-sides that are equipped for fire and rescue. These UTVs come with emergency light bars, sirens, and a PA system. Like police UTVs, these machines also tend to have specialized tires and a full cab enclosure.
You’ll also find plenty of rack storage on UTVs for firefighters. Engine-powered water hoses can be mounted in the bed or on the roof (or both).
Because of their ability to reach places that standard vehicles can’t, rescue side-by-sides are changing the game when it comes to response time. The faster firefighters can get to the fire, the faster it can be contained—and lives can be saved in the process.
Medical emergencies don’t care if you’re deep in a forest or on the shore of a remote beach. Accidents happen, and paramedics need to get to you quickly and efficiently when they happen. That’s where emergency medical service (EMS) UTVs come into play.
UTVs help paramedics get to remote locations so they can more quickly administer aid to patients. You may also see these vehicles at sporting events, where they’re used to safely and quickly remove injured players from the field.
So what does it take to convert an off-road vehicle into a mini ambulance? They need somewhere to place the patient, so for starters, most have extended beds for stretchers. There will also be a jump seat in the back, so the paramedic can sit next to the patient.
The last thing medical workers need when administering aid is to be jostled around. For that reason, a smooth ride is paramount in EMS UTVs. Features like 4WD, power steering, and specialized tires help to provide the smoothest ride possible.
In addition to needing a secure means of transporting patients, UTV emergency vehicles contain much of the standard equipment found in a full-size rig, like a defibrillator, splints, and trauma and rescue equipment. Emergency lighting, radio communications, and a GPS are a must, too.
EMTs and paramedics may also be specially trained for side-by-side rescue and extraction in remote settings. Some companies are also developing new standard operating procedures (SOP) that are specific to UTV rescue.
If there’s one place an ambulance can’t easily get to, it’s the beach. This is unfortunate because beaches tend to be prime locations for accidents and injuries. Luckily, the off-road prowess of UTVs pairs great with sandy terrain.
Lifeguards must be able to quickly get to beachgoers in need, which is why sand tires are key. Side-by-sides equipped for lifeguards have specialized tires that won’t slow them down on the beach.
Similar to EMS UTVs, these machines also have extended beds to hold stretchers for patients. They may carry some of the same medical equipment as you’d find on a paramedic’s side-by-side. There may also be a surfboard mount on top for when lifeguards need to enter the water to extract someone.
Another thing to note when keeping UTVs on the beach is the environment. Salty ocean air is extra abrasive and can be brutal on a vehicle. Finishing these machines with an extra-protective coating, like Lava Liner, can prevent rust and keep them functioning for as long as possible. Lifeguards may also wash down their UTVs at the end of each day to combat premature rust and wear.
The versatility of UTVs never fails to amaze us. Gone are the days when these machines existed to haul hay bales or entertain riders on the trails. Thanks to their ability to navigate any terrain type, rescue side-by-sides have become invaluable assistants in many lifesaving lines of work.
We’re only left with one question: What will these machines help us with next?
Do you use UTVs as emergency vehicles in your line of work? Let us know in the comments! We would love to learn more about how off-road vehicles are saving lives and changing the game in these industries.