In the battle against COVID-19, the EMT is the true front line.
The 95 men and women who work for the FDNY’s Emergency Medical Services Division 1 at Pier 36 and South Street, are committed to the community and each other. Throughout the unprecedented challenge of the coronavirus pandemic, each and every one of them have put their lives on the line daily to serve their neighbors without wavering and they have saved countless lives because of it.
“The station has been here so long and some of our members actually live in the community,” said Deputy Chief Patrick Flynn. “When you go through something like this, you tend to see the capacity of the human spirit. You see the best of people, and that’s come through clearly both in our department and in the community.”
Flynn has been on the job for 17 years but has never seen anything like this. And he’s also never seen anyone in his command retreat in the face of the challenge of COVID-19, no matter how deadly it may be. By the end of July, New York City had more than 419,000 confirmed cases and a staggering 32,000 deaths from the dreaded virus.
Flynn, 45, has a wife and three young boys at home to worry about but he takes every precaution possible to ensure that they are safe and that he and the men and women in his command are ready to protect the people of Lower Manhattan.
Members of Flynn’s team—which he says come from “as far away as you can drive to get to work”—are overcoming their own fears every day to do battle with this invisible foe. “Everybody has their own family and we take every precaution possible to not bring the dangers of our jobs home with us,” Flynn said, explaining that he changes at the end of his shift at the station then showers and changes again before he comes in contact with his wife and three kids.
Before the virus, EMS reported an average of 4,000 calls a day throughout the city. Contrast that to a whopping 6,500 calls that were made daily at the pandemic’s peak, and you realize the level of exposure the EMTs are facing along with the toll it takes on them.
It’s a mental, physical and emotional grind,” he said. “You’re facing so much serious illness. We had to think about helping all those people and at the same time protecting our members.”
We talk to each other, share our experiences
“The station is a close-knit place,” he said. “We have therapy programs in place, but the real support comes from our peers. We talk to each other, share our experiences, and help each other through every step of the way—just as we do for the people we serve.”
Several of his own people were infected with the virus, according to Flynn. But despite the fear that came with seeing their fellow members becoming ill, those who remained took on extra hours and shifts to make sure that the community around them was covered.
“We never had to talk about coverage,”
The 60 Emergency Medical Technicians have more than 150 hours of intensive training, and the 25 paramedics—who boast more than 1,800 hours—were all outfitted with N95 masks and gloves for their protection. But the real security and strength come from each other.
“We never had to talk about coverage,” Flynn explained. “People just stepped up without a second thought.” He says, “This group continues to rise to the occasion for their brothers and sisters and the people we pledge to serve. I couldn’t be prouder of all of them.”