Plenty To Thank For Storm Relief, But Much More To Do
As proven time and time again, in times like these, the volunteer fire departments and volunteer ambulance corps' of New York City put aside their families and put themselves at risk, to help save and serve others. These communities also put aside their boundaries and become a united family.
For instance, in Glendale, we were out there since Saturday morning trying to educate people to prepare, handing out hurricane brochures, and were in service in the storm and post storm. We cut down over 100 trees that had fallen, opening up roads for emergency vehicles, assisting other emergency services remove victims from their vehicles trapped under trees, and in local areas that were affected by flooding.
Other Services like the Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Glen Oaks Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Central Park Medical Unit and Corona Volunteer Ambulance Corps assisted in evacuating Bellevue Hospital, NYU Hospital and several Nursing Homes.
While other volunteer Ambulance and First Responder groups covered their areas, responding to numerous calls, and assisting in their communities needs. Glen Oaks also set up a collection site for donated goods, and the Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance Corps assisted in donating items to affected squads.
Services in Far Rockaway such as Point Breeze Volunteer Fire Department, Roxbury Volunteer Fire Department, Rockaway Point Volunteer Fire Department, Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department and West Hamilton Volunteer Fire Department, lost everything—their ambulances and fire trucks, their rescue equipment and personal protective equipment.
Also, many of the Staten Island squads were hit hard. There are two volunteer Ambulance services, and a volunteer Fire Department on Staten Island. Richmond County Volunteer Fire Department lost equipment and bunker gear while responding to people stuck in their homes, using a small boat.
Immediately following the Hurricane, these volunteer services continued to step up and show their commitment to their communities, their commitment to the emergency medical and fire suppression com- and to the City of New York as a whole. The volunteer fire departments in West Hamilton Beach, Broad Channel, Roxbury, Rockaway Point and Point Breeze immediately regrouped and went out into their communities, amongst the floodwaters and danger to ensure the safety of their residents. This was the case in almost every community serviced by a volunteer Ambulance or Fire Department.
These members put their own lives at risk to cut down trees, rescue residents from cars and homes. They organized to open up roadways, and ensuring that the safety of their residents was paramount.
The volunteer fire departments went a step further in the aftermath of this devastating hurricane. These volunteer fire departments became the central receiving facilities, command centers, and shelters for their communities. Opening up their doors, although destroyed, but nonetheless opened up for the community. They provided a central place of comfort, and the promise of survival. In the days to come, and still to this day, these fire departments remain the central command center in those communities.
The NYPD, FDNY, Department of Homeland Security, FEMA and the New York State Volunteer Ambulance and Rescue Association (NYSVARA) continue to check in with these departments to ensure their needs are met. The chiefs and members of these organizations, having lost everything, have again put themselves and their destroyed homes aside, to help their neighbors, showing extreme courage and volunteerism.
The NYSVARA District 4, immediately took action as well. As the chairman, I immediately reached out to every single volunteer ambulance, fire, first response agency and college based EMS squad for an update and needs assessment, and immediately sent out requests for assistance via our emergency one call system, and our Jim Downey email system.
We put out a request for assistance from every medical supply company, fire supply company, ambulance service, private company and large corporation, and we even sent out requests for help from the City Council, State Senate and State Assembly. We contacted the NYSVARA for assistance in spreading the word as well, and they immediately sent out notice to squads throughout the state.
The response was overwhelming, and the appreciation to these organizations and companies is unimaginable. We have received donations from multiple volunteer ambulance services and volunteer fire departments throughout the state and country, companies like porta-brace, Physio Control, Zoll, Medline, Folgers, Carhart, and so many more. I thank each and every one of you.
• We have received new tech bags for each affected squad from Porta- Brace, turnout gear, helmets, AEDs, suction units, gear bags, boots, basic medical equipment, and much much more. They received turnout gear and hose cleaner as well.
• The district delivered multiple boxes of medical gear, including gloves and BLS equipment on several occasions to all squads, 10 plus full sets of turnout gear, helmets and boots to Broad Channel, West Hamilton, Point Breeze, Rockaway Point , Gerritsen Beach, Roxbury and Richmond volunteer fire departments.
• The district also delivered lines of 1 3/4 fire hose to all and a “jaws of life” Hurst tool to the West Hamilton Beach Volunteer Fire Department.
• Almost every other day, each volunteer fire department receives several additional boxes of medical equipment, batteries, cleaning supplies and several other needed items. Broad Channel, West Hamilton and Gerritsen Beach have been given six of each of the following: saber radios, chargers and equipment to replace their communications equipment.
• Each Volunteer Fire Department is now in service due to the donated firetrucks and ambulances from departments throughout New York State and beyond. The companies are not at the levels they were pre-storm, but nonetheless, they are in service for their communities, and starting the rebuilding process.
Rockaway Point and Roxbury received vehicles from Maimonides Hospital; however, both have been deemed unusable. Rockaway Point received a loaner 4x4 Ambulance from North Shore LIJ Hospital, and the district delivered an ambulance donated from WAVES Ambulance to Roxbury Volunteer Fire Department. North Shore LIJ Hospital has also offered additional vehicles and long term assistance to the volunteers.
The Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department received ambulance donations from the Glendale Volunteer Ambulance Corps and the Sag Harbor Volunteer Ambulance Corps. Gerritsen Beach will be receiving an Ambulance from Scho-Wright VAC in the coming days.
District 4 has secured and delivered defibrillators to West Hamilton Beach, Broad Channel, Roxbury and Gerritsen Beach Volunteer Fire Departments. We are awaiting additional units to be updated and stocked to be distributed to the remaining services.
The district also secured light towers with generators from the city’s Office of Emergency Management for Broad Channel, so that they would have power and lighting immediately following the storm. The towers were delivered within an hour of our request.
The district has also been working with Assemblyman Michael Miller’s office, City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley’s office, the Glendale Civilian Observation Patrol, the Glendale Kiwanis Club, the Glendale Volunteer Ambulance Corps, along with members from the Middle Village Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Jamaica Estates Volunteer Ambulance Corps, Emergency Medical Rescue, Bethel Volunteer Ambulance Corps and the Community Board 5 Community Emergency Response Team delivering food and needed supplies to these volunteer fire departments.
They have made over 100 trips to West Hamilton, Broad Channel and the Rockaways, and numerous trips to Gerritsen Beach Volunteer Fire Department.
To date we have delivered over 1,000 bags of clothing and several thousand pounds of food, pet food, cleaning supplies, diapers, baby items, toys, car seats, over 500 cases of water, blankets and too much to list.
These items were also delivered to several churches in Far Rockaway including St. Francis de Sales on Beach 129th Street, a small church on Beach 105th Street and a community organization on Mott Street, and many more locations. We have delivered needed supplies to the Kentucky Disaster Relief team, including lodging at a local church in Glendale, meals, warm clothing and transportation. This is the team that is making the meals for the Red Cross.
We are still receiving equipment on a daily basis and will continue to distribute these items to the squads.
However, it is time to change our focus slightly at this time from a recovery operation into a long term rebuilding operation. We need to focus on not only continuing to supply needed items to these organizations, but also focus on their members. A long term plan to ensure that the volunteers are kept safe and are taken care of as well, will be of utmost importance in the weeks and months to come.
District 4 has teamed up with the Hancock Hope foundation and several other volunteer ambulance and fire departments that have offered assistance with long term deployments when needed.
Also, we need to focus on the communities. These communities were hit hard. These communities are very family oriented and very close knit. There are many children in these areas that have lost everything, toys, school items, etc. These communities also lost schools and day care centers.
We need to start focusing on the children. With the rapidly approaching holiday season, we need to start helping the children rebuild as well. The NYSVARA District 4 hosts its annual toy drive at its December membership meeting; however, we have teamed up this year with several volunteer ambulance corps and local community groups to collect unwrapped toys for all age groups.
Over the next few weeks, we will be collecting these toys to be distributed by Santa Claus on top of firetrucks and ambulances in the affected areas. This will hopefully bring back some positive morale for these departments and bring back some comfort to the children and families who have been hit so hard.
A special thank you to all of those who have helped, been heping on a daily basis. To Assemblyman Michael Miller’s office, especially Dorie Figliola who has put in an amazing amount of work helping set up and coordinate efforts. Thank you to The Shops at Atlas Park and City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley’s office; thank you to the Glendale Kiwanis and its members.
Editor’s note: Gunning is the president of the Glendale Volunteer Ambulance Corps and chairperson of the New York State Volunteer Ambulance and Rescue Association District 4.