Over the past 33 years Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps members have answered an enormous number of calls for help in our community.
It's National EMS Week, so it's only fair to provide a little background on what it is the RVAC does, whom they serve, and who they are.
Maybe you have called them yourself. While you frantically wait for the sound of the approaching sirens, somewhere else in town a cool-headed EMT has grabbed an equipment kit and is headed to the ambulance barn – or right to your house if that’s closer.
When their radios crackle, the men and women of RVAC never know whether they’ll be called to a vehicle accident, a child found unconscious in a backyard swimming pool, a patient with a psychiatric emergency — or any other possibility.
RVAC volunteers come out in the rain, in the snow, on the hottest summer days and the coldest winter nights, sometimes putting themselves in danger. Lots of times they get out of a warm, comfortable bed, or leave a family party, or get up in the middle of eating dinner. They do it twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks a year. And they do it all voluntarily.
Even when they’re not responding to calls, EMTs serve our community. Just this week, RVAC members visited local schools to talk to students. Elementary school students got a tour of the ambulance and a look at some of the equipment that EMTs use on calls – RVAC members hope that a little familiarity with the rig might forestall the fear a child needing a ride to the hospital might have. Another crew visited the high school and staged a mock accident scene with the SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) Club. The whole school convened outside to watch as several “victims” were cut out of a car and treated for simulated injuries. The ambulance corps also does standbys. They’re at the Riverhead Country Fair, the Jamesport FD 10k Sound to Bay Run and the RHS graduation ceremony every year, at neighboring communities when needed, and any time the Jamesport or Riverhead Fire Departments requests them.
Inspired to become one of our local heroes? You’ll need to commit to about 146 hours of schooling and clinical rounds to become a basic EMT. Add about 370 hours on top of that if you want to become an EMT-CC, certified for critical care and advanced life support techniques. And of course, there are corps meetings, trainings and weekly six-hour in-house shifts. But most of all, you’re going to need lots of community heart and spirit.
That’s exactly why RVAC volunteers give so much of themselves for lots of work and no pay.
Ronnie Rowe, President of RVAC and long-time volunteer says, “Most of us here do it for the satisfaction. Some people get a feeling of satisfaction when they climb a rock wall, some people get satisfaction from running 10 miles. Most of us here get a tremendous feeling of satisfaction from helping our neighbors.”