Friday, 06 July 2012 00:00
Recently some Nassau County political candidates and elected officials made statements about the way emergency medical services are delivered. Great Neck residents who live north of the LIRR receive ambulance services from volunteers of the Vigilant Fire Company on Cutter Mill Road. The costs for these services, which average $45 to $75 annually, based on assessed home values, are covered by taxes. Although residents indicated in a 2011 town hall meeting with the Vigilant Fire Company that they are satisfied with the delivery of these services, some village officials, seeking to remove this fee from their budgets, have asked the Vigilant Fire Company to bill for services provided.
No single mayor or village board of trustees should control the fate of our community’s ambulance, an entity that has existed in Great Neck for 75 years. However, if one village withdraws from the agreement with the Vigilant Fire Company, the remaining villages will be unable to shoulder the tax burden alone. Such action will result in the collapse of the system and the demise of the Vigilant ambulance service in Great Neck, leaving residents unprepared for emergencies. To avoid this outcome, we, the residents of Great Neck, must decide together that we want and need our community’s ambulance service to ensure our safety and preparedness during an emergency.
On June 1, 2012, the Village of Hempstead entered an agreement to have all of its ambulance services provided by North Shore-LIJ EMS. Early in the evening on June 17, a large fire erupted in a Hempstead apartment building occupied by hundreds of residents. Because of the conditions at the scene, the incident commander called for more than 30 fire departments and 30 ambulances —- a number that greatly exceeded the capacity of North Shore-LIJ EMS —- to assist. Volunteer-staffed ambulances from New Hyde Park, Williston Park, the south shore and the eastern end of the county handled the more than 30 injured civilians and firefighters, exemplifying the “mutual aid” system, which has been in place since the fire service began and was formalized decades ago in written agreements among Nassau County agencies. Although the Vigilant Fire Company did not respond to this particular fire, the volunteers of our communities have, for generations, provided effective, professional emergency services in Nassau County.
The Hempstead fire demonstrates the tremendous importance of our community’s ambulance service. Similarly, in January 2012 when more than 50 Midshipmen from the USMMA at Kings Point were sickened by carbon monoxide, mutual aid ambulances were called from across Long Island. To ensure that residents’ needs will be met and that our community will be protected during a crisis, it must remain in place. Only then can we be confident in the strength of the chain that supports emergency services in Great Neck, North Hempstead and Nassau County.