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Everyday civic heroes sought

EMS open house on Saturday

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Who are the people tasked with your well-being should you have a medical emergency? The Hewlett Fire Department wants to acquaint residents with its emergency medical technicians, or EMTs, at an open house from 4 to 6:30 p.m. on May 19, at 25 Franklin Ave. Emergency Medical Services Week officially kicks off the next day, and continues through May 26.

In conjunction with EMS week, the Hewlett department is also holding the event to disseminate vital information about cardiopulmonary resuscitation and heart health.

Children will be able to tour the ambulances while enjoying free cotton candy, provided by the department. “It’s important to teach young kids that ambulances aren’t as scary as they may think,” said Lt. Cary Epstein, of the department’s Fire-Medic Company. “God forbid they ever need the services; touring the ambulance as a patient isn’t the best way.”

Children will receive coloring books, and their parents will be offered educational material about fire and emergency preparedness, as well as a free blood pressure screening. The company’s captain, Bess Katz, said the department wants to “bring people into the firehouse so they can see who we are and what we do. We want the community to get to know us better, and it’s a chance to help inform people.”

There will be a 10-minute CPR demonstration, and attendees can enter a free raffle for a more in-depth private class for their family. Epstein said that these classes can typically cost $130 per person.

The Hewlett F.D.’s EMS program is staffed entirely by volunteers. According to Katz, there are 28 EMTs, five of whom are also firefighters. They have one ambulance. The rescue truck, Epstein said, is used to transport EMTs, but not patients.

The department is also holding a dedication event for the vehicles and the rest of its fleet on May 20, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The firefighters are also all volunteers.

“Most people don’t know us until they need us,” said Epstein, adding that he hoped the event would inspire more residents to volunteer. “Without this service, there’s not enough paid ambulances in community to cover all the calls. Without the volunteers, people would die.”

Katz said that the group of first responders is growing, with five new EMTs graduating recently and four more taking the training course. The basic class is held throughout the year and stretches for five to six months, with sessions twice a week for three hours a day. There is also an accelerated course during the summer, with five-hour classes five days a week for three months. The Fire Department covers the cost of the volunteers’ training, but expects EMTs to be involved and respond to calls. After completing their training, EMTs can then train to be paramedics, who are certified at an advanced level of medical care.

The Lawrence-Cedarhurst Fire Department operates differently than Hewlett. It became the first department to have a paid medic program on Long Island 22 years ago, according to Chief David Campbell. It has two ambulances, and there is a paid paramedic and EMT at the firehouse from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day.

“We have an average response time of three minutes,” Campbell said when asked about the paid program’s benefits. “The state average is 13 minutes.”

The Inwood department relies on both volunteers and a paid staff, and the mix means that district residents don’t have to rely on Nassau County police ambulances. “The police only have so many ambulances,” said Ron Sorrentino, the district clerk. “Being at the furthest west end of the county makes it especially hard for county ambulances to get down here quickly.”

In matters of life and death, every second counts, so Epstein recommends that residents call the department directly at its emergency number, (516) 374-1600. When they dial 911, callers have to speak with a dispatcher before reaching the local department, which can delay a response. Epstein noted that Hewlett ambulance rides are free, but Nassau County ambulances bill patients through their insurance.