An informal exploratory committee has been investigating the possibility of bringing paid emergency medical technicians to East Hampton Town to help stem the need for mutual aid assistance calls, where emergency units from outside fire districts are required to come in, in situations where a local crew is not immediately available.
Even when the mutual aid system works as it should, the time span between a call and the arrival of a responder can be too great, and concerns have risen, as have the number of calls.
The plan “would have to deliver on its goal, which is to support the volunteers,” Larry Cantwell, the East Hampton Village administrator and a member of the committee, said yesterday. He said that such a plan could work only in conjunction with the existing volunteer service.
“It’s in the exploratory stage,” said Joe Dryer, chairman of the board of fire commissioners of the Montauk Fire District. The commissioners will meet next Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Montauk Firehouse to discuss the potential impact on the hamlet. The members of the East End Ambulance Coalition, which the exploratory committee is in talks with, might start such a program in the summer of 2014. The coalition includes the area from Montauk to Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor.
“The funding would come the way it is now, by the different fire districts, and, in our case, the village,” Barbara Borsack, the deputy mayor of East Hampton Village, said yesterday. She stressed that the discussions were still tentative.
One idea being explored is to hire a full-time emergency medical technician for each of the five fire districts in East Hampton Town, Ms. Borsack said. They would be in an emergency vehicle, ready to roll, during the day.
“They would have a first-response vehicle,” she said. They would arrive on the scene and assist a victim until a volunteer E.M.T. unit could get there, Ms. Borsack said. She speculated that the hired technicians might be advanced emergency medical technicians.
The advantages of having such a person in place would be huge, she said. Ms. Borsack herself is a regular E.M.T. volunteer. The workload for these volunteers is intense, she said.
An advanced E.M.T. is certified to do many things that regular ones are not certified for. “They can give medications, they can start an IV, they can do an intubation,” she said. Lung intubation is the process of inserting a tube through the nose or mouth and extending it down into the lungs to remove or add fluids or air.
East Hampton Town Supervisor Bill Wilkinson is also on the committee. While Mr. Wilkinson, a Republican, has had his share of political scuffles with Democratic board members, this is one issue he sees as apolitical — and important. “I’m in full support of [the committee’s] doing what it has to do, as long as it doesn’t detract from the great work that our volunteers do,” he said.
That was a point that all committee members interviewed agreed with.
Mr. Dryer said he hopes that the discussion might even spark a different solution. “It would be a moot point if we had the people to respond.” He’d like people to “realize the need. We’d like to stay as volunteer as possible.”
If there were enough volunteers, paid emergency medical technicians would not be needed, but right now, not enough volunteers are coming into the program.
Mr. Wilkinson also is concerned that bringing in paid workers could have a reverse effect. “If I’m a volunteer and I know there are paid responders, will I still volunteer?”
There will be additional meetings in early April, Mr. Cantwell said, involving various Suffolk County agencies as well as representatives of local fire districts.