That's why Claire Bennett of Manorville came before the Riverhead Town board at Tuesday's meeting to implore them to take action regarding an ambulance problem she said could be deadly.
Bennet lives on Oakwood Drive in Manorville, an area near the Riverhead border that is serviced by the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps. With an eye toward faster response times, Bennet said she would like to see a change made so that the area is serviced by the Manorville Community Ambulance, which is much closer.
Bennet said she first brought the issue to the board's attention three-and-a-half years ago. Most recently, she was told that the Riverhead ambulance district was in "negotiation" with Manorville to supply a first responder to her neighborhood, with Riverhead ambulance being the mode of transportation.
The issue, Bennet said, is critical. On July 6, she said, a family on Schultz Road in Manorville had a daughter choking — and no ambulance arrived for an hour.
"That can't be accurate," Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said.
Bennet said she had a letter from the family in question.
Walter said he would ask Riverhead Police Chief David Hegermiller to pull the 911 records to determine exactly what had happened.
"We will get to the bottom of this," he said.
As for the ongoing negotiations between Riverhead and Manorville districts, Walter said, "I'm not throwing either district under the bus."
The districts, the supervisor said, are in conversations about mutual aid. "One of the districts is moving a bit slower than we would like."
"That's Riverhead," an audience member said.
Walter said while both the Riverhead and Brookhaven town boards would like to get involved, they can't, because a mutual aid agreement between ambulance districts is necessary.
"It's not really a town board issue," he said. "They have to come to an agreement."
"It's been three and half years," Bennet said. "What can we do to stick a firecracker under their butt?"
Walter suggested she reach out to the ambulance districts. "We are in support of this but our proverbial hands are tied," he said.
"This is absurd," Bennet said. "There are seven young children in the area."
Walter explained again that it was an ambulance district matter.
"You're powerless," Bennet said.
"We're not powerless," Walter said.
"It sounds like you are," she responded. "Are you prepared for a lawsuit when somebody dies?"
Walter said he would send a letter to the chiefs of both ambulance districts and ask for a meeting with them and Bennet.
Another neighbor, Cheryl Smith, said the biggest issue was who would be an advocate for residents, "to be sure these people do the job?"
Smith related one instance when she was choking. "It took the Riverhead ambulance 37 minutes to get to me," she said. "They were in Wading River when we called."
"It's a very big issue," Walter said.
Councilman Jim Wooten said it was "inexcusable that you don't get the service you deserve. It's pathetic that this has taken over three years."
Walter said he would force the meeting and said he wasn't interested in anything but when the changes would be implemented.
"Will it be the death of someone before someone responds to any of this?" Smith asked.
"We will take care of it," Walter promised.
"We'll hold you to that," Smith said. "Or we'll be back."
In addition, Bennet said, there are still errors with the 911 system that have her town incorrectly listed as Calverton.
Hegermiller said when 911 was created, some calls went to the wrong place; once the mistake is reported, he said, the error can be fixed but must be addressed by Verizon; the process can take time.
Both Hegermiller and Walter agreed the problem was an easy fix and said they would work to solve the issue.