President: David Raizen
Vice President: Drew Hahn
Treasurer: Peter Strauss
Secretary: Karen Sheer-Carpenter
Scarsdale Volunteer Ambulance Corps. ("SVAC"), provides the Scarsdale community with advanced life support ambulance service to patients of all ages experiencing a medical emergency. Advanced life support is one of the highest levels of pre-hospital care available, which SVAC provides 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
SVAC is staffed by a combination of paid paramedics and volunteer emergency medical technicians, and other appropriately trained volunteers. SVAC's volunteers are residents of Scarsdale and its neighboring communities, dedicated to serving their neighbors despite their busy schedules as parents, homemakers, business executives, lawyers, teachers, accountants, tradespeople, engineers, health care providers and the like. It is this selfless dedication to helping one's neighbors that makes the difference in the personal care provided by SVAC.
This year Scarsdale Volunteer Ambulance Corps is celebrating it's 50 Year Anniversary.
The Scarsdale Volunteer Ambulance Corps was founded in 1970 by a group of concerned citizens who joined together to see if the community could provide emergency services of higher caliber than what was presently available.Over several months, they recruited other residents and eventually procured a 1956 Cadillac ambulance, which was donated by the Mt.Kisco Lions Club.
The Village government was initially cool to the idea, but eventually saw its value, supporting the residents more fully and making housing available at the old railroad station at the five corners by Heathcote Road.
Initial fundraising found significant community support, and by 1971 the ambulance corps had recruited more than 30 people to support emergency services in the Village.
Over the next several years, the volunteer ambulance expanded its program by training multiple volunteers as New York State Certified Emergency Medical Technicians. And with the generous support of the Scarsdale community, they were able to obtain a modular ambulance and add a second garage space to their headquarters. It was clear that something special was emerging in Scarsdale.
Within four years, SVAC had built an agency fueled by volunteers willing to help their neighbors at any time, which surpassed the level of service being provided by the Village. In 1974, the Village officially designated the ambulance corps as the agency responsible for all medical emergencies and transportation.
Over the years, many hundreds of residents have volunteered their time and services to support the volunteer ambulance corps, and thousands of residents have donated and re-donated to support this community gem.
Meanwhile, the demand for emergency services continued to grow, as did the pre-hospital protocols for treating patients. The model had shifted from "scoop and go" to "treat, then transport." This required significantly more training, and meant more time engaging with the patient.
In 2006, it became obvious that the railroad station was barely adequate for current needs, and completely inadequate for its future needs. Working with the Village they concluded that the empty property at 5 Weaver Street was centrally located and met the ambulance corps' criteria. Along with Mayor Strauss, they started raising money to pay for the new building. SVAC was determined to do it on its own and successfully used no Village funds. They entered into a 99-year lease with the Village for the property at 5 Weaver Street. In June of 2007, they broke ground, and the ambulance corps moved into the building in February, 2009. The new building offers state of the art medical equipment, two ambulance bays, sleeping quarters for ten people, an oxygen filling system, a working kitchen, squad room and training center. It remains the envy of other agencies in the County, all built without taxpayer funding.
The move into the new facility marked the start of a significant growth period for the ambulance corps, both internally and externally. While the agency will always be measured by its core mission of responding immediately to 911 calls faster than the seven-minute national average, there is a tremendous amount of work that occurs behind the scenes, and often goes unnoticed.
The new building gave Scarsdale an EMS training facility that changed the landscape of how first responders, not just in Scarsdale but our surrounding communities, acquire new skills. As one of only four New York State Department of Health certified EMT training centers in Westchester, they have provided instruction, including continuing medical education, for hundreds of new and existing EMTs. These first responders come from all parts of the County for the experience SVAC's instructors and facilities provide.
The last few years, SVAC has expanded its program to offer a fully certified New York State EMT class to Scarsdale High School students during their senior options time. This popular course, which runs at capacity, gives these (often pre-med) kids a competitive advantage when entering college. With their EMT certification, they've already experienced real-world medical situations, often join college campus ambulance corps, and gain a lifelong appreciation for volunteering.
Many area agencies, including EMS and fire, have joined in with specialized training drills hosted by SVAC. These include mass casualty scenarios, such as a school bus accident, as well as multiple active shooter drills.These drills take hundreds of hours to prepare and depict real-life scenarios through actors in moulage including simulated gunfire. Since all of these large-scale events would require coordination with the Village's neighbors, they send their own personnel to SVAC's training. Participants from the County Department of Emergency Services, as well as a doctor from White Plains Hospital, assist with communication and skills evaluation. Without SVAC's commitment to education, this high level of preparation would remain unfulfilled.
Recognizing that they are here to serve the community at many levels, their training extends beyond the professional rescuer. No matter how rapid the arrival of professional emergency responders, bystanders will always be first on the scene. The ambulance corps regularly teaches CPR classes under the guidelines of the American Heart Association that cover infant, child and adult choking rescue and resuscitation. Stop the Bleed training empowers bystanders to help in a bleeding emergency, and is geared not just to individuals, but community religious organizations, school staff, and local community clubs.
Within the emergency services community, Scarsdale Volunteer Ambulance Corps is considered among the best EMS agencies in Westchester County (volunteer, municipal or commercial) for its operational and training excellence. In 2018, the organization responsible for overseeing and coordinating EMS operations in the County, the Westchester Regional EMS Council, awarded SVAC the Chairman's Award and, separately, its president, David Raizen the EMS Leadership Award twice.
A common misconception about volunteer ambulance corps is they are less capable as municipal or commercial agencies. That is patently false, particularly in the case of Scarsdale.
All EMS agencies in New York State must follow the same protocols and procedures, regardless of their structure, and operate under the direction of a medical doctor. The highest level of pre-hospital care allowed is called Advanced Life Support (ALS). ALS is provided by a certified paramedic, and allows them to bring the two dozen most critical life-saving drugs and field procedures directly to a patient. In nearly all cases, a hospital ER performs the exact same interventions as a paramedic performs in the field, except they can start them sooner to yield better results.
Scarsdale always has a paramedic on its first due ambulance, and nearly always does on its second and third due. In addition to paramedics, the ambulances include certified EMTs who can administer Basic Life Support medications and procedures. They employ a combination of paid and volunteer paramedics and EMTs to ensure the Village is always covered.
Call volume has steadily increased over the years. In the past five years alone, the number of calls SVAC has responded to has increased 55%. On average, SVAC responds to five calls per day, or more than 1,800 a year.
Due to the operational success of SVAC, they are able to cover 99.7% of all calls we receive. More than a quarter of these calls are from neighboring towns who are unable to cover their own calls. Through a countywide system known as "mutual aid," towns help neighboring towns to reduce delay to patient care. While we rarely need help from others, we are often called by Eastchester, New Rochelle, Mount Vernon, and Greenburgh.
In 2016, due to the high volume of mutual aid into the north end of New Rochelle, SVAC was asked by the City of New Rochelle to take the area north of Stratton Road as part of our primary response area. They conducted a join experiment where SVAC and New Rochelle's commercial ambulance service were dispatched to calls simultaneously to the north end. SVAC was first on-scene more than 90% of the time, and was almost four minutes faster on average. In 2017, with the permission of the Village Manager and then-Mayor Jon Mark, Scarsdale Volunteer Ambulance Corps officially took over the area.
Since SVAC is partially funded by medical insurance chargebacks, the additional territory has helped fund the agency and provide a new set of donors.
Presently, SVAC has:
It is believed that the next 50 years will see continued growth in the corps, particularly as the landscape of medicine changes. Currently, they are working on three major initiatives.
The first involves being one of the first community paramedicine programs in the area. Community paramedicine is a relatively new and evolving healthcare model whereby paramedics and EMTs assist with primary healthcare and preventive services.This has the potential to expand the corps role from predominantly reactive to proactive.
The second initiative is a joint effort with Westchester County to set up a mass evacuation transportation system. Their immediate concern is for the evacuation of the Ambassador of Scarsdale senior living facility, but any protocol established would be used throughout the County.
Finally, the third is continuing to grow and evolve their training facility. The corps success today is owed to the desire of their members to be life-long learners.In emergency medicine, there is no such thing as "knowing it all" and they are proud of their tradition of being among the most prepared agencies in the County.
The past 50 years of Scarsdale Volunteer Ambulance Corps has been about neighbors helping neighbors. What started as a small group of dedicated volunteers and a radical idea they could do something better, has evolved into a large organization that thousands have come to count on within four minutes of calling 911.
It is a special group of people who volunteer to help their community in their time of need, and they treat the responsibility with great passion and personal time.As they are adamant about privacy protection, you will rarely read about the thousands of patients they've helped in the Inquirer or online. They often go unrecognized. They see humanity at its worst, while believing they represent humanity at its best. Their members give of themselves not just to help their community, but because indeed, it defines their community.