Changes for volunteer ambulance corps

Brooklyn’s volunteer ambulance corps are being reinstated.

Last month, reports claimed that the Fire Department (FDNY) ended an Emergency Medical Service (EMS) practice of granting volunteer ambulance corps access to the 911 emergency system.

“Back when EMS was around, they would call us when they were backlogged. That stopped when the Fire Department took over. They do call when they need assistance — heat waves, swine flu. They call when it’s necessary for them but otherwise, they don’t want us,” said a member of a Brooklyn volunteer ambulance corps who did not want to be named for fear of retribution.

“FDNY’s move will inevitably result in backlogs, which will mean delays. And when it comes to patient care, every second counts,” said James Robinson, commander of the Bedford-Stuyvesant Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

However, according to an FDNY source, the corps could still listen to 911 frequencies to determine if an emergency was in their area. The only difference, the source said, was that the FDNY no longer kept a list of volunteer ambulances on duty each night, as the FDNY does not dispatch volunteer corps.

As of this writing, the FDNY agreed to reinstate the old system where the FDNY would keep track of volunteer ambulances on duty.

An FDNY spokesperson said, “The impact that this will have on an average citizen suffering in an emergency – it will have no impact.”

There are several volunteer corps operating in Brooklyn, including the Bensonhurst Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Bravo Volunteer Ambulance Service, Brooklyn College Emergency Medical Squad, Chevra Hatzolah Volunteer Ambulance, East Midwood Volunteer Ambulance, Flatlands Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Hatzolah of Borough Park, Hatzolah of Flatbush, Hatzolah of Williamsburg, and Park Slope Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

Brooklyn’s City Council members say it’s important to keep the volunteer corps running.

“We need to utilize the volunteer help we have. These folks are heroes and heroines,” said City Councilmember Lew Fidler.

“South Brooklynites rely on volunteer ambulance services like BRAVO and Bensonhurst Volunteer Ambulance Service – responders are well trained, the service is free and their inclusion in the 911 system means no resident needs to worry about having access to quick emergency care,” City Councilmember Vincent Gentile said. “It is crucial that they be supported and maintained as a medical emergency resource and we don’t sacrifice public health and safety even in light of a tough fiscal atmosphere.”