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Riverhead Town Board discusses radio problems ambulances have experienced

A child who was critically injured riding a quad at the Enterprise Park at Calverton was unable to be brought to Stony Brook University Hospital by Medivac helicopter last weekend because Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance couldn’t contact the Riverhead police with the radios they have, according to Garrett Lake, the president of the ambulance board of directors.

The child ultimately was driven to Stony Brook, he said.

“This is a dire issue and it needs to be fixed,” Mr. Lake told the Town Board at its work session Thursday.

He said the radios the ambulanceshave now have “zero communication” inside EPCAL and also have problems reaching areas like the outskirts of Jamesport, by the bay and the Sound and in Manorville.

The EPCAL site generates between 300 to 400 calls per year as people have been riding motorcycles there and having injuries.

“If there’s no police officer on scene, we have zero communications,” he said.

The EPCAL accident took place at the same time as a protest on Route 58, so many of the police officers were there, according to Mr. Lake.

The Town Board discussed purchasing new radios back in March and the town’s radio system had what officials called a “catastrophic radio failure” last year.

The ambulance is currently looking to buy new radios at a cost of about $250,000.

Instead of giving each responder a radio to take home, most of the radios will remain in the ambulance barn.

“For right now, everybody has a radio,” Mr Lake said. “We’re kind of working away from that level of response because have a lot more paid staff on now. Everybody’s pretty much coming in and doing their shift in the ambulance barn and not leaving and going home.”

The new plan would have only chiefs and Advanced Life Support responders take radios home with them, he said.

The new radios would give responders a better range and would enable them to use both the current frequency as well as the new frequency they will be using, according to Mr. Lake said.

New Ambulance Barn

In addition to new radios, the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance may also get a new headquarters.

“Preliminary estimates put a price tag of about $5 million on a new headquarters,” Councilman Tim Hubbard said. “We’re going to be looking to do some fundraising with the assistance of Peconic Bay Medical Center’s capital fundraising.”

The location of the new headquarters is not being made public yet, but it would likely be a 99-year lease to the town, he said.

The board hired H2M Architects and Engineers in January to do engineering, consulting and schematic design for the project.

The current location “is obsolete, overcrowded and it’s not a good situation to be in,” Mr. Hubbard said. “This is long overdue.”