Amagansett Moves Toward Paid EMS Service; Montauk To Continue Program

Amagansett Fire District budgets $100,000 for new program in 2014.

Amagansett Fire Department Credit: File Photo
Amagansett Fire Department Credit: File Photo
More paid emergency medical service personnel are coming to the Town of East Hampton.

The Amagansett Fire District is moving forward with its own program, while the Montauk Fire District builds on the success of its paid service, the first ever east of Southampton.

This summer, Montauk hired one paid Advanced Life Support provider to be on duty 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from June 15 to Sept 15. Montauk Fire District Commissioner Joseph Dryer said the program worked so well that the board extended an abbreviated version into the autumn from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., and they budgeted to continue the program in 2014.

The Amagansett Fire District looked to Montauk as a model as it mulled how to continue to provide advanced EMS service with only one volunteer on the rolls, Commissioner Jack Emptage said.

"We have to start somewhere," Daniel R. Shields II, chairman of the Amagansett Board of Fire Commissioners, said on Tuesday before the board unanimously approved a $1.09 million budget, which includes $100,000 to implement having paid Advanced Life Support in the district.

They are still working out the details as to what hours paid personnel work, but would still rely on BLS providers, who volunteer, to answer calls. 

The fire department's ambulance company runs 400 to 500 calls each year, but has only one volunteer, Tom Field, who is an ALS provider. Advanced emergency medical technicians can start IVs, administer higher level medications, and intubate. "He can't do it single handily," Shields said.

Amagansett's budget will increase 12 percent, or $155,736, over 2013. The amount for dispatching services, which the district paid $100,371 for last year, is rising by $31,178. Premiums for the Length of Service Awards are also rising.

While figures aren't available yet as to the impact to taxpayers, according to Robert Jensen, the district treasurer, estimated that the amount he pays for fire district taxes, which was $400 last year, will go up by about $48.

Commissioners said they felt they couldn't put off the move to incorporating paid personnel into the department, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2014.

"If we don't do something then the whole thing could just disappear," Commissioner William Vorpahl Jr. said of ALS care.

"There's just not enough help," Field, who has been an ALS provider since 1990, said, adding that he was planning on giving up his ALS certification, but agreed to stick with it a bit longer to help the district transition to paid help. "I think we're all headed toward year-round help at least in the day time, whether we'd like to admit it or not."

Commissioner J. Kent Howie, the co-chairman, said the increasing course load the county requires for A-EMTs, makes it even more difficult to attract volunteers. Meanwhile, the pool from which to draw from is getting smaller, Commissioner Jack Emptage said.

The Montauk Fire Department relied on about 15 EMTs and three ALS providers to run 700 calls annually before this summer. While the call volume throughout East Hampton increases when the population swells in the summer months, Montauk takes a particular hit, with a jump from 3,000 residents to 40,000. Twenty-to 45-minute waits became common place.

After hiring paid providers, response times improved. "It was amazing. It was a total success," said Dryer, who volunteers as a driver and credits at least one save this summer to the program. "People who are diametrically opposed to it, toward the end of the summer said it was the best thing the district ever did and it should be continued."

Montauk fire commissioners approved its 2014 budget — $1.68 million will be raised by taxes — unanimously on Tuesday, as well. Dryer said $150,000 was put aside for running the program 24-7 during the summer and from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the other nine months of the year. The cost of the program is minimal for homeowners, he said.

However, he said the district is going to evaluate the amended version of the program at the end of the year to decide its merit. "We're doing one step at a time," he said.


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