When there are traffic accidents and medical emergencies, a crew treats people at the scene and brings them to the hospital. When nearly 50 people ran into the chilly waters of Great Hollow Lake during the Plunge in the Park, an ambulance was on stand by. That also goes for the St. Jude Italian Festival and every Masuk football home game.
The men and women looking out for the safety of others are volunteers from all walks of life — from students, teachers and nurses to business executives.
"It's your neighbors who are volunteering," said Steve Shiskin, one of Monroe's highly trained volunteers. "You can be in the grocery store. You never know who you're talking to. There was an incident in one of our schools and one of our members, who happens to be a teacher there, handled the situation."
MVEMS has around 50 volunteers from ages 16- to 80-years-old.
Brian Morcone, 16, a Masuk sophomore, has been serving since last September.
"Masuk has a fire brigade and a medical assistance team," he said. "If there is a mass casualty, we would be called from school at the discretion of whoever is in charge of the scene."
Morcone is an emergency medical technician (EMT). EMS also has emergency medical responders (EMRs).
"My role is to assist the EMT in charge," Morcone said. "When I turn 18, I can become a full-fledged EMT in charge of calls."
"High school students can't do overnight shifts until their 18," Shiskin added.
Monroe EMS volunteers work out of its Jockey Hollow Road headquarters from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m., while a paid crew does the 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. shift.
One recent Saturday, Shiskin and Morone were on duty with Kristen Zawatski and Brian Wallace, a member of the EMS Executive Board.
Wallace is hoping for a good turnout for an upcoming being offered by MVEMS. Classes run from March 21 to June 11 and will be held on Mondays and Wednesdays from 7 to 10 p.m. For information, call (203) 452-2826, extension 4.
"We encourage anyone to take the course," Wallace said. "It's a valuable thing for the community."
The EMR course teaches basic life support skills including CPR and first aid, according to Shiskin. Even for people who decide not to become EMS volunteers afterward, he said completing the course can benefit them and their families.
"You never know when you'll need to use it," Morcone said of the skills.
A Motorcycle Accident in '95
Shiskin witnessed the medical care MVEMS volunteers provide when he got into a motorcycle accident in 1995.
"They treated me very well," he recalled. "I was going into law enforcement at the time."
In 2002, Shiskin took the course needed to become an EMS volunteer himself, but did not join until a friend he knew at __ saw his name on the list of people completing the course and talked him into volunteering. He has now been with MVEMS for nearly two-and-a-half years.
When he's not volunteering, Shiskin runs the machine room at Victorinox Swiss Army in Monroe.
Zawatski, a MVEMS volunteer of two years, is an office manager for Silver Hill Hospital in New Canaan.
"I work in the health care industry," she said. "I enjoy helping people. My father was a member of the service in Monroe — as a driver. He encouraged me to take the EMT course with him and I have been here ever since."
Wallace, who is a teacher in a private school in Norwalk, first became interested in being an EMT when he lived in New York State nearly six years ago.
"I had some friends who were in EMS," he said. "It seemed like they were enjoying it. I took an EMT course and really enjoyed it ever since."
Morcone said, "I'm a Junior Firefighter at Stevenson, so I've seen what emergency services are all about. I joined in September and loved it ever since. It's a learning experience where you can work with great people."
Morcone believes what people learn at EMS can serve them well in future careers.
A Family Affair
Many people join EMS through their friends and family and make new friends after signing up.
"It's common to have family members," Wallace said, of the membership for MVEMS.
"My kids want to do it when they're old enough," Shiskin said. "My daughter is 15 and my son is 13. They sit there and watch me go out. It's just helping your community."
Could driving in an ambulance with the lights flashing and sirens blaring be a lure?
"You get a little bit of a rush driving in an ambulance for the first time," Shiskin said, "but it becomes second nature. You just worry about getting the crew back safe."
Wallace said the most satisfaction an EMS volunteer can feel is knowing that the patient is better after being treated at the scene and that the prognosis is steadily improving on the way to the hospital.
"When I wake up at 4 o'clock in the morning and drag myself out of bed, you know what you're doing is important," Wallace said. "Often times you see people at their worst. It's our job to do our best to care for them in a really tough situation."