The ambulance not in service could be the one you need

Published on: July 13, 2017

This Sun City Center Emergency Squad ambulance, parked near the intersection of Del Webb Boulevard East and S.R. 674, sits idle due to a lack of trained volunteers. It could very well be the one you call for in a time in need. LOIS KINDLE PHOTOS


We’ve all seen them sitting at intersections throughout Sun City Center, especially this time of year. They’re Sun City Center Emergency Squad ambulances idled by the lack of trained volunteers to staff them.

And we’re all guilty of passing over these visual appeals for help, thinking that someone else will respond.

“Many people think they don’t have the time to volunteer,” said Marilyn Navarro, assistant chief of communications. “But we ask only for eight hours every eight days, and we provide all the training.”

The Sun City Center Emergency Squad made almost 5,000 ambulance runs last year and undoubtedly would have made more had it had the year-round staffing it needs.

The runs the squad did make saved taxpayers about $2.1 million in Hillsborough County which would have had to hire additional firefighter paramedics, purchase more equipment and cover overhead. That savings doesn’t include what residents would have paid if Fire Rescue had transported them to the hospital instead of the squad.

“We need three people per shift to run one ambulance, a driver, emergency responder and emergency medical technician,” Navarro said. “And if we don’t have all three, we can’t put one on the road. We try to run two ambulances per day between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.”

Currently the squad has about 400 volunteers on its roster. That may sound like a lot but only 170 are trained for ambulance work. The remaining volunteers provide operational support.

And if squad members are sick, need to go on vacation or happen to be snowbirds, those numbers shrink even more. What it boils down to is that sometimes there just aren’t enough trained volunteers to respond to every call.

When Barbara Kindle needed help twice in the past two years, she was glad a Sun City Center Emergency Squad ambulance arrived only minutes after she called.

“What would we do without them,” she said about the ambulance team. “I received the best help ever and was treated with love, like I was a member of the family.”

It’s all in a shift for ambulance volunteers.

“Initially, I joined the squad because my parents were getting older and, as a caregiver, I wanted to learn more about their health issues and how to care for them,” said Robin Watt, former assistant chief of communications and an EMT on Team 7 for 12 years. “But now, having been with the squad for almost 13 years, I realize how much more I’ve gotten from my volunteer time.

“The squad is my extended family, the people with whom I’m growing older. We have a shared knowledge of the issues we each may face as we age,” Watt continued. “There is tremendous satisfaction in assisting our neighbors in the community but also in the wonderful friendships with people I would only know through (volunteering for) the emergency squad.

“We have such a unique organization and in serving the community, I’ve found something truly meaningful.”

Thinking about pitching in? Go learn more about what’s involved at a one-hour open house at 6 p.m. July 12 at the Sun City Center Emergency Squad’s Training Center, 124 Pebble Beach Blvd. S. Information will be provided by squad volunteers on ambulance staffing, as well as other positions you could help fill. Refreshments will be served. The event will include a Q & A period and an ambulance tour.

For more information, call 813-633-1411.