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Riverhead supervisor vows to replace radios for ambulance service after equipment failure

The Riverhead Ambulance Volunteer Corps on Osborne Avenue

The Riverhead Ambulance Volunteer Corps on Osborne Avenue in Riverhead on Saturday. Credit: Linda Rosier

Riverhead’s Volunteer Ambulance Corps needs to replace key communications equipment used to reach volunteers after some of it broke down more than a week ago, according to town officials.

The ambulance corps — which responds to about 4,000 emergency medical calls annually within its 78-square-mile district in Riverhead, according to its website — began experiencing problems with its primary radio nearly two weeks ago, Riverhead Police Lt. David Lessard told the Riverhead town board at its work session Thursday. Lessard said he was notified of the problem Aug. 16.

The primary radio, otherwise known as a “repeater,” allows radio communication to reach volunteers.

As a temporary replacement during the weekend, the ambulance corps reached out to Suffolk County Fire Rescue Emergency Services, which issued 20 radios to corps members and enabled an operational channel for the ambulance service to use as a stopgap measure for the corps’ dispatch, Lessard said.

Though there were no missed emergency calls within the district, Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith — who said her office was notified of the situation on Aug. 19 — said a long-term solution is needed.

Ambulance corps representatives did not respond to requests for comment.

Jens-Smith said the town would “immediately purchase new, state-of-the-art” equipment for the corps. She added that officials would “work to resolve the longer term matter of upgrading our town’s entire communications system.”

To avoid future communications problems, Jens-Smith said she plans to meet with the town’s police department, ambulance corps representatives and other town officials to discuss creating a new emergency measures plan. That plan, Jens-Smith said, is expected to outline a set of procedures for emergency services to follow in the event of a communications breakdown.

“Equipment fails, things break down, but protecting the public is our most important job,” Jens-Smith said. “When it comes to public safety, there is no compromise.”

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