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July 14, 2021
Fleet Focus: Exchange Ambulance Corp. of the Islips
Every day, hundreds of thousands of emergency responders and workers do critical life-saving work on roads and highways across the country. Our Fleet Focus series highlights just some of the day-to-day experiences of these workers and what they see and experience while working in the field. This month’s Fleet Focus features a discussion with Robert Stadelman, the Vice President of Exchange Ambulance Corp. of the Islips in New York.
How long have you been serving with Exchange Ambulance?
This September will be 29 years. Our organization goes back to 1951, so altogether now we’ve been operating for over 70 years.
Tell us a little about Exchange Ambulance. What kind of organization are you?
We’re a combination paid and volunteer EMS department. When I originally joined, it was all volunteer, but today we have a mixture of volunteer and paid staff. We’re a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and our board of directors, our chiefs, and our captains, they’re all volunteers. Our paid staff primarily helps us answer calls.
What area do you serve?
Our region is on the south shore of Long Island New York, and we cover four towns in that area - Islip, East Islip, Islip Terrace, and Great River. We also participate with 130 other volunteer agencies in a county-wide mutual aid system, so we can conceivably do mutual aid and assist our neighbors anywhere in the county.
What kind of incidents do you respond to?
As the primary EMS provider in our area, we cover everything, from a simple abdominal pain call to someone in cardiac arrest. Our yearly call average is somewhere between 3,800 and 4,000 calls a year, which actually makes us one of the slower agencies in our township, but we see demand year-round with a big spike in the summer.
What’s the average day like for your crews?
All of our volunteer members do at least one six-hour shift a week on-site and can respond from home when we are responding to multiple alarms. Our paid staff tends to do 12 to 18-hour shifts, but their responsibilities, certifications, and training for both our paid staff and volunteer members are all the same. When our members are in-house, they’re doing equipment checks and making sure the rigs are ready to go. An average day usually has between 10 and 12 calls, although the other day we had about eight calls in an hour. We definitely have a busy season; of those 4,000 calls we get every year, a big chunk of those happens between July 4th and Labor Day. We cover one very large state park, a smaller secondary state park, and Fire Island to our south is mostly a summer destination, and so during those summer months the community population really swells and there’s an increase in parties and activity overall. So those summer months and weekends are our busy season, and then we slow down a bit during the winter months.
How large of a fleet do you operate?
We have 13 vehicles. That includes five ambulances, which we equipped with Safety Cloud, but it also includes two first response SUV’s and three chief’s SUV’s We also have a whole slew of miscellaneous apparatus; a 15 passenger van, a pickup truck with a snowplow, three all-terrain vehicles and a couple trailers. We also have a fire department-style heavy rescue truck with all our special operations equipment in it. So we’re well-prepared for just about anything.
What sort of dangers does your fleet face in the field?
Roadside dangers and risks are the number one problem we face. We’ve been lucky to only have had minor accidents here and there, but we’ve had a bunch of near-misses when a crew is parked on the side of a road. It doesn’t even have to be a car accident we’re responding to; it can be a routine house call, but people can drive by at ridiculous speeds. They don’t notice when people come out of the vehicle or house, or come to retrieve something out of a side compartment.
We have two major roadways going through the community. Sunrise Highway is your typical straight roadway with good visibility, and vehicles can see you from a long way off. But we also cover Southern State Parkway, which is narrow, very windy, has almost no shoulders, and has very poor visibility because of the curves. So we experience lots of near-misses when people don’t see us, and drivers tend to drive at excessive speeds on those roads regularly, which frequently results in an accident. That is really one of the most dangerous things we do: accidents on the Parkway. Unfortunately, they’re also usually either minor fender-benders or they’re catastrophic accidents with fatalities - there isn’t much in between.
How has Safety Cloud made a difference in your operations?
We think drivers are more aware of what’s going on now. You’re always going to have people driving too fast, not focusing on the road ahead of them, but when people slow down it tends to cause other drivers around them to notice and slow down too. Especially when we’re responding in those areas with lots of curves and poor visibility, every driver that manages to slow down and move over is a tragedy avoided. Before Safety Cloud we’d just have to hope that the lights and sirens would be enough, but it’s nice now knowing that drivers are also getting these notifications through Waze. Every bit of extra protection is worth it to us.
About HAAS Alert
HAAS Alert's mission is to build lifesaving mobility solutions to make vehicles and roads safer and smarter. Our vision is a connected, collision-free world where everyone gets home safely. HAAS Alert makes roads and communities safer by delivering digital alerts from emergency response and other municipal fleets to nearby drivers. The company streams real-time alerts and other vital safety information to motorists and connected cars via in-vehicle and navigation systems when emergency vehicles are approaching and on-scene. For more information, visit www.haasalert.com.
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