Casey Orr is the youngest elected chief in the history of the Huntington Community First Aid Squad, according to department officials. She was elected two years ago at age 26 and ends her second one-year term in December.
But she said age is nothing but a number and has little to do with getting the job done, and neither, by the way, does being a woman.
“I’m not treated differently,” Orr, 27, said as she sat in a meeting room at the squad. “Everyone here is professional. I don’t see any difference in the way I’m treated from the board of directors, the other chiefs, members.”
In between running the squad, which is a volunteer position; working full time as an office manager for a holistic medicine practice and part time as a dispatcher for the Dix Hills Fire District; raising her toddler son, Gavin; and planning her September wedding, Orr takes her noteworthy position in stride.
“It takes a lot of patience and organization,” she said. “The biggest thing is splitting time between being a mother and here. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and everyone here is so great, helpful. But my phone does ring all hours of the day.”
Orr oversees a department, founded in 1967, that has more than 250 volunteers. It’s the second-busiest ambulance squad in Suffolk County, according to county officials. Brentwood is the busiest.
Orr said she spends about 12 hours a week volunteering at the squad, including responding to emergencies, mostly in the evenings and on the weekends.
She said one of her proudest achievements is bringing down the department’s mutual aid requests to the lowest level in years. Mutual aid requests are calls for help from other ambulance services.
The squad was very familiar to Orr when she joined in 2010 as an 18-year-old following in the footsteps of her father, Greg.
The squad responded to a medical emergency involving Orr’s mother in 1998. After his wife recovered, Greg Orr, inspired by the service he got from the squad, joined them in 1999. In his time at the squad he has served as captain and first deputy chief.
Casey said that when her dad was on duty she would come and hang out and was equally inspired to join by what she witnessed.
“I love helping people,” Orr said. “I was able to see my dad and people he was friends with go save a life. Chief or not, that’s what we’re all here for: to go out there and save a life.”
After becoming a member in 2010, Orr quickly climbed the ranks. In 2012 she became an EMT, a day captain in 2015 and then first deputy chief in 2016. When she was elected chief, she surpassed her father’s rank. She said she never paid attention to stereotypes that working in the emergency medical services field is a man’s job.
Orr was recently named recipient of the Harriet C. Weber EMS Leadership Award from the New York State Department of Health, Bureau of Emergency Medical Services.
“She leads by example,” said Elizabeth Mohr, Orr’s high school classmate and her first deputy chief. “She takes what people say to her to heart and she does her best to show other members what to do by doing her duties to the best of her abilities.”
John Palmieri, former president of the squad’s board of directors and a former chief of the squad, commended Orr’s leadership.
“Running our squad is a very big job and she’s done it quite well,” Palmieri said. “She has a very nice manner about her, she’s not pushy but she’s strong and wants things done correctly, and she pushes for it and is not overbearing.”
Orr said she thinks the supportive and encouraging environment at Huntington Community First Aid Squad has allowed her to flourish.
“It comes down to being able to show you can do the job regardless of male, female, 27, 47,” she said. “If you can do the job and if the membership here sees it, then you have a good chance of becoming elected.”
TAKING YOUR CALL
The Huntington Community First Aid Squad covers an area from Lloyd Harbor and Lloyd Neck in the north to Melville in the south, and from the Nassau/Suffolk border and Cold Spring Harbor in the west to Greenlawn and Dix Hills in the east.
More than 6,200 / Number of calls to squad in 2017
2,936 / Overall calls for 2018 as of June, down from 3,117 of June 2017
526 / Calls in June 2018
554 / Calls in June 2017