Dundee squad has its own emergency
DUNDEE—Dundee Emergency Squad answers between 50 and 60 calls every month. This service is more amazing when you realize this is just a small number of people are currently doing all the work.
Captain Lori Miller spoke about the emergency squad, commenting, “We are running with about 13 members and are slowly losing members.” She said she thinks some people don’t have time for the squad due to work or because they don’t have the time to retrain.
Lori Miller is closing in on nearly 20 years with the squad. Asked why she does it, she said, “I like doing what I’m doing. I like the people and dealing with the public. It’s kind of in my blood to help people.” She said her husband Doug got her into the work originally. She loves the work because, “Having the medical background, you help family, friends and neighbors.”
Although members receive no pay, there are some benefits other than the satisfaction of a job well done. The Length of Service Award Program (LOSAP) was adopted by the village of Dundee a few years ago. This program provides a small monthly stipend for members who qualify after they reach retirement age. Another benefit is the exercise room which is open to all members.
Raymie Miller has been a member of the Dundee Fire Department for 52 years, and has the distinction of being the oldest member of the squad. He said he was an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) for about 30 years, but now serves as a driver.
The Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) training is valid for three years. This training involves a commitment of approximately 120 hours. Other training sessions are held in-house once a month. They usually last a couple of hours and focus on keeping up defibrillator skills, reviewing ambulance equipment and retraining on materials used for asthma or allergic reactions.
Lori said there is a pilot program for people who have EMT training lasting about 40 hours. Classes are offered in the county which make it unnecessary to go through the entire process again.
Squad members must be active, going on runs and attending training. Lori said this is difficult for people who are working. She said some younger members stay active for about three years and then seem to lose interest. Lori didn’t know why, with all the training they completed, that some lose interest.
One of the most difficult times is during the day. The squad has one medic who takes a lot of calls. Lori said, “I’m worried she will get burned out.” There is a second medic who is available during the day two days a week, but if one of the medics is sick the department has to call in mutual aid.
Raymie said, “We’re running with very few people now. Days are tough.” He said he thinks the problem is all over with ambulance services due to the lengthy courses that are required to serve. He said the local squad does not charge for their services, but if Advanced Life Support (ALS) or Medic 55 responds to assist, there is a charge. These specialists can offer some care that the local squad cannot provide.
One of the more recent issues that has affected the local service is the shift in destinations for some cases. Raymie said, “So many of the trauma cases have to go to Arnot in Elmira or to Geneva. This makes us be out of town longer.” People who have suffered strokes, heart attacks or bad fractures are some examples of patients who have to be sent further away for treatment. The use of helicopters for medical evacuations has become more common. Raymie added, “That’s the way it is now.”
Patti Miller, Emergency Squad First Lieutenant, said, “In 2008 there were 478 runs and of that there were only 32 that did not have transport.” Members estimated runs to either Soldiers & Sailors Hospital in Penn Yan of Schuyler Hospital in Montour Falls average nearly one and a half hours total.
Ray spoke about his concerns regarding the number of members in the Dundee Emergency Squad, noting, “The last couple or three years have been hard. The scary part is that we don’t get a lot of new people in and some eventually get burned out.” The increase in calls for service during the past few years has compounded the problem.
Doug had a sobering comment near the end of the conversation. He said, “If we don’t get anything soon I don’t know how much longer we can do it.” A possible option, if more willing volunteers don’t step up and stay with the squad, would be paid employees, an option that would most likely be financially impossible.
Ray added, “I don’t know what the solution is. We’ve got to get some more volunteers.” He is hopeful that will happen.