fire & ems

‘We’re here for them’

The life-saving work of volunteers

By TED WADDELL
Posted 4/28/21

SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — As Sullivan County E-911 and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Coordinator Alex Rau explained, the mission of the bureau is to “provide the leadership, support, …

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fire & ems

‘We’re here for them’

The life-saving work of volunteers

Posted

SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — As Sullivan County E-911 and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Coordinator Alex Rau explained, the mission of the bureau is to “provide the leadership, support, education and cooperation necessary to enable the EMS agencies serving Sullivan County to provide the best emergency medical care possible through a lasting and professional partnership with the men and women” of the county’s EMS system.

The Sullivan County Bureau of EMS strives to work together “with all of the emergency response agencies that operate in Sullivan County for the common goal of providing the best response to the [county’s] residents and visitors,” Rau wrote in a welcome statement on the bureau’s webpage (www.sullivanny.us/Departments/EMS).

Rau is assisted by a trio of Deputy EMS Coordinators: Ann Steimle, Karrie Jara and Joel Sherwood.

As with a lot of people involved with volunteer fire companies and EMS response squads, Rau started out serving his community at a young age.

“I was 16 when I joined the Liberty Volunteer Ambulance Corps, and I realized that it was for me,” he recalled. “I really liked helping people.”

After joining the local ambulance squad as a teenager, Rau earned his emergency medical technician (EMT) certification, went on to complete a state paramedic program at Dutchess Community College and, then, worked locally for several years as a paramedic.

 In 1996, he signed up as a dispatcher at the Sullivan County 911 Center, later advanced to a supervisory position, became department head of the center in 2007 and, two years ago, was asked to “step up my game” as the county’s bureau of E-911 communications and EMS coordinator.

“We have a great team of public safety people,” said Rau of the E-911 center staff. The center provides dispatch services for 70 agencies.

While being a paid emergency medical provider isn’t for everyone (currently in our area, an EMT reportedly barely makes minimum wage and paramedics earn about $20 per hour), there are many opportunities to sign up with a volunteer ambulance squad. Volunteer EMTs and ambulance drivers are needed, along with positions involved with clerical duties and maintaining the life-saving rigs and equipment.

Rau took issue with the common misconception of a volunteer “just being an ambulance driver,” clearing the air by explaining, “An ambulance can’t move without a driver. A driver is just as important as a skilled EMT or paramedic; without a driver, we go nowhere!”

He stressed the importance of having volunteer medical services available in a rural community. “People should understand the different levels of care. If somebody knows basic first aid or CPR, [volunteers] can hold the emergency down until we get some additional help.

“A lot more ambulance corps are starting to drill and work with fire departments, building relationships,” said Rau. In these times of shrinking membership rosters, he noted that more agencies “on both sides of the aisle” are combining services to more efficiently serve the community.

“John [Hauschild] and I work very closely together, and Rick [Sauer] is at all the meetings; we’re building a lot of bridges,” he said of his working relationship with the county’s bureau of fire coordinator and the public safety division’s commissioner, respectively.

“If volunteers were not here, the cost would be in the millions,” he added. Without the tireless dedication of volunteer ambulance squad members, tax rates would increase county-wide.

Rau made a pitch for folks taking a state-approved EMT course at SUNY Sullivan. Information is available by contacting Tina Ross at 845/434-5750 (leave a message) or by email at tross@sunysullivan.edu.

Asked how residents or visitors can help out local volunteer EMS agencies, Rau requested that if it’s not a true emergency, please “wait until the doctor is in,” thus reducing the number of non-emergency calls. Over the course of time, these can create burn-out in volunteers.

“Self-evaluate what’s an emergency. We’re all volunteers out there, so if you get up at 2 a.m. because your back’s been hurting for three weeks and call for an ambulance in the middle of a snow storm... consider just seeing your doctor the next day.”

“EMS is helping your neighbors and building friendships, it’s not all blood and guts,” said Rau.

The Sullivan County Bureau of EMS is located at the Sullivan County Government Center, 100 North St., P.O. Box 5012, Monticello. NY 12701. For more information, call 845/807-0508 or visit www.sullivanny.us/Departments/EMS.

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