Croton EMS Response Times in Question

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Harmon Firehouse, where Croton EMS Ambulance is stored
Harmon Firehouse, where Croton EMS Ambulance is stored Photo Credit: Jessica Glenza

The Village of Croton Board of Trustees appointed a liaison between themselves and the Croton Volunteer Ambulance Corps, because of ongoing response time issues during daytime calls, according to various sources within the village leadership. Mayor Leo Wiegman has called it a “continuity of service issue.”

According to Richard Nagle, a retired 11-year Chief of Ridgefield, Connecticut Fire Department, and appointed liaison between the Croton EMS and Board of Trustees, he noticed there was a response time problem “several months ago, there wasn’t any one particular instance. I have a scanner and I listen to the dispatch of calls, and I noticed there were a disproportionate number of calls being routed to OVAC (Ossining Volunteer Ambulance Corps)."

What is referred to as “mutual aid” is a partnership that Croton keeps with the Ossining Volunteer Ambulance Corps and the Tri-Community Emergency Medical Services, which calls to those and other ambulance companies when nobody from the Croton Volunteer Ambulance Corps is available. The Croton Volunteer Ambulance Corps uses what is called an “open call” system, meaning there is no schedule of when EMS volunteers are on duty. All volunteer EMS are paged, and those available respond.

Mutual aid for high priority calls, like chest pains and other life threatening conditions, obstetrics and pediatrics, is paged only after six minutes of unresponsive calls to Croton Volunteer Ambulance Corps from county dispatchers, or upon Croton’s request, according to Michael Volks, chief of the EMS and Communication for Westchester County Department of Emergency Services

Nagle also said that “because it’s a volunteer organization you need a pretty hefty number of people to cover calls 24 hours per day.” Nagle said he has not yet determined how many active members there are in the Croton Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

According to Gary Diggs, captain of the Croton Volunteer Ambulance Corps, “We had a roster of 48 about a month ago,” referring the active membership in the Croton EMS.

The Croton Volunteer Ambulance Corps originally split from the Croton Volunteer Fire Department three years ago, because it was illegal under New York State law to bill individual insurance providers for ambulance services if the ambulance company was connected to a fire department. Thus, in an effort to save the village money, the ambulance corps was split from the fire department.

As a comparison, Irvington has had an active volunteer ambulance corps for nearly 50 years, which is completely self-supporting financially, according to Captain Storm Field. “Response time is not the most difficult thing, response time is something that is achievable at many times,” said Field. “Getting people to volunteer for the ambulance corps many times is the biggest problem.”

Nagle has said he is looking into possible solutions for the response time problem, including instituting a dedicated schedule, or hiring an EMT for the most difficult times during the day to cover calls.

As of right now, Nagle is still crunching numbers for an exact estimate on the number of calls made, and exactly when response time problems are occurring.

“This is not like we’re providing service for New York City, we’re providing service for our own families, and that’s really important,” said Nagle.

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