Volunteer ambulance corps have regained access to the city's 911 system, following a City Council hearing convened to win support for the unpaid emergency responders.
The city's three-dozen volunteer ambulance corps could log in to listen to emergency calls until the FDNY and EMS suspended the practice late last year. But corps members and elected officials across Brooklyn and Queens rallied around the issue, arguing that the volunteer outfits should not be shut out. At the February 23, EMS Chief John Peruggia agreed to bring the volunteer ambulance corps back on board. The decision was celebrated by elected officials, though its impact was downplayed by Fire Department officials.
“Chief Peruggia's agreement to restore the policy that allowed volunteer ambulance groups to log on to the 911 system is a victory for all New Yorkers,” said Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley, the Fire and Criminal Justice Committee chairperson.
Supporters say volunteer ambulance corps - which respond to as many as 15,000 emergency calls annually, by one estimate - provide the city with an invaluable support system.
A Fire Department spokesperson said the reversal changes little.
Volunteer ambulance corps must be dispatched on calls by city emergency personnel, whether they log into the system and listen to the emergency calls come in or not. Reinstating their access “will have no impact on our operations,” the spokesperson said.
Be that as it may, volunteer ambulance corps from Brooklyn to Queens said they rely on a partnership with the city to carry out their work in the most effective way possible.
“When it comes to patient care, every second counts," said James Robinson, commander of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps. Others said ambulance corps help reduce FDNY backlogs and delays in response time.
Councilman Lew Fidler said he has witnessed volunteer ambulance corps “arrive first on scene to life-saving situations” in his southern Brooklyn district.
“We shouldn’t be looking to cut them further out of the loop; we should be seeking to do everything we can to keep them involved,” Fidler said. “I think the chief’s commitment brings us a long way in doing that.”