Vigilant Fire Company EMS service celebrated

Vigilant Fire Company EMS service celebrated
Vigilant Fire Chief Joshua Forst speaks to a crowd of Vigilant Fire EMS, fire company leaders and public officials. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Politicians, fire officials and emergency medical service professionals gathered together at the Vigilant Fire House on Wednesday evening, honoring EMS workers and others answering medical emergencies.

This marks the first time Great Neck celebrates EMS Week, which began nationally in 1974 to celebrate EMS practitioners.

The event also extended to praising the work of everyone responding to a medical emergency. This includes engineers, dispatchers, firefighters and, of course, emergency medical professionals.

“This whole chain of survival is what EMS week is about: recognizing all the participants in the chain,” said Zachary Goldfarb, Vigilant Fire Company’s sergeant-at-arms.

Judi Bosworth, joined by Councilwomen Anna Kaplan and Lee Seeman, speaks to a group of EMS workers, officials and others. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Some officials, in addition to offering proclamations, also noted moments where Vigilant personally helped them. North Hempstead Town Supervisor Judi Bosworth, a Great Neck resident, recalled that in 1996 she “was very ill” and Vigilant EMS saved her life.

“We are a community, we’re one family, and when we’re trouble you’re there for us,” Bosworth said. “There’s nothing more comforting than knowing that someone from your community is there to provide those very special services and it’s something we thank you for every single day.”

Goldfarb, a key organizer of the event, said he first experienced EMS week celebrations in Dallas, Texas, back in 1979. He then helped bring it to previous departments he worked at, before bringing it here.

“We developed a desire to do it and a lot of support from the chief’s office – and then we went to the board of trustees with the concept, because they had never done this before,” Goldfarb explained.

Over the 80 years Vigilant offered emergency medical services, it evolved drastically. Initially, the company’s medical care involved volunteer doctors making house calls.

In 1983, Fire Chief Joshua Forst said, emergency calls numbered around 500 a year. That helped prompt the creation of a dedicated medic squad in 1984. Then, as calls continued increasing, Vigilant added ambulances.

Now Vigilant fields about 2,000 per year. And, in a way, the company has come full circle.

“We are now that doctor making a house-call,” Vigilant Fire Chief Joshua Forst said. “People are calling us to make a decision on whether or not they should go to the hospital.”

Forst also commended the work of former Fire Chief Conrad Singer for beginning a partnership with the Merchant Marine Academy in 2003. Anyone riding an ambulance at the Academy had to be working with Vigilant Fire Company.

“When we started, it was one or two people a year,” Forst said. “Now we have 111 with another class coming through.”

Joshua Charry, assistant fire chief of Vigilant Fire Company, said that since emergency medicine is relatively new, many in EMS are underrecognized – and that’s why EMS Week events matter.

“EMS in organized form has only been in existence since the 70s,” Assistant Fire Chief Joshua Charry said. “So EMS has a lot of catch-up to do with police and fire.”

The event ended – perhaps too appropriately – with “Stayin’ Alive” playing in the background, dancing and dessert.

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