Many of us began our careers by donating time to local rescue squads. The lessons we learned at volunteer organizations aided our development while reinforcing the value of helping others. EMS World is proud to publicize those institutions for being volunteer strong. This month we feature the Mamaroneck (N.Y.) Emergency Medical Service.
Area served: Village of Mamaroneck (6.7 square miles)
Approximate population served: 20,000
Approximate annual call volume: 1,500
Volunteers: 35 EMTs, 30 drivers and attendants
Paid personnel: paramedics from the Town of Mamaroneck Ambulance District
Emergency Services in the Suburbs
If you drive the 15 miles between Connecticut and New York City along Interstate 95, you’ll pass several small suburban villages. One of them is Mamaroneck, a waterfront community with highways, train tracks, and factories, in addition to some pretty pricey homes. Meeting the emergent needs of residential and industrial customers is nothing new to our industry, but Mamaroneck EMS ups the ante with a rare pledge: advanced life support 24/7. That’s pretty impressive for a largely volunteer organization.
“The town hires paramedics to supplement our BLS crews,” says MEMS spokesperson Teddy O’Rourke. “They’re stationed at headquarters like everyone else and respond with our members.”
Those members are required to ride four six-hour shifts and attend training sessions monthly. “We try to make those classes as interesting as possible,” O’Rourke says. “For example, we partner with the Coast Guard Auxiliary and Metro-North [commuter railroad] to develop realistic exercises. We try to avoid boring lectures so we can get people more excited about furthering their EMS education.”
Recruits begin as “attendants,” riding as third or fourth crew members with only basic first-aid instruction until they gain more experience. “Then we encourage them to become EMTs,” says O’Rourke, a 26-year-old full-time educator. “If they don’t have time for that, we’ll put them through a driver-training program. We end up with a good mix.”
O’Rourke, who became an EMT and helped start an EMS agency as a sophomore at nearby Purchase College, comes from a family of volunteers. “They’re firefighters,” he says, “but I was always more interested in the medical side. I became an EMT in 2012 and joined MEMS in 2016.”
O’Rourke disputes the notion that volunteers aren’t as capable or conscientious as career personnel. “I don’t think a paycheck determines how much help you’re going to be in the field,” he says. “Take our [paid] medics. They’re as much a part of our team as any of us. Two of them even volunteer here in their spare time. We all ride together and respect each other.”
Recruiting and retaining enough people to do that work is as much of a challenge at Mamaroneck as anywhere else. “The hours required can be an issue for some candidates, and some are just trying to bolster their resumés or get experience before medical school,” says O’Rourke. “But we have a fairly low attrition rate because most members are engaged and want to continue learning.”
O’Rourke credits his agency’s community outreach for their deep applicant pool. “We have signs all over that advertise our need for volunteers,” the Westchester County native says. “We use social media quite a bit too. And word of mouth helps, particularly from patients and family.
“We try to be out in public as much as possible. Standbys, for example, are good opportunities to show off our apparatus and get into conversations with people. Just being visible lets everyone know who we are.”
Those citizens who do sign up become eligible for tax credits and other modest perks, but when prospective volunteers ask for specifics, O’Rourke would rather discuss what candidates can give instead of what they’ll get.
“Some recruits come to EMS for the ‘big-buzz’ calls,” he says. “We get plenty of those just by covering a few miles of Interstate. But more than half our calls are medical. Sometimes they require getting out of bed at 3 in the morning to help an elderly patient who’s scared and confused.
“We need members willing to do that—to see beyond the lights and sirens and help people who are having really bad days. Sometimes just holding their hand on the way to the hospital is the most important thing.”
Mike Rubin is a paramedic in Nashville and a member of EMS World’s editorial advisory board. Contact him at email@example.com.