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The St. Marys Area Ambulance Service's annual membership drive is under way and will continue throughout the month of April. Funds raised by the drive benefit the association and are used for the upkeep and purchase of new equipment.
According to Robert "Bert" Sorg, manager, the Ambulance Service currently has around 3,000 members, though he noted that the number has steadily declined over the years.
"We need people to take an interest and join the Ambulance Association," Sorg said.
He noted that, in addition to membership funds being used for the purchase of equipment, joining the association is also important because it helps reduce people's out-of-pocket expenses if they need emergency service.
While individuals are treated the same by emergency responders regardless of whether they are a member of the association, Sorg explained that non-members are also billed by their insurance companies because the association does not help cover their costs.
Sorg also indicated that, while an individual can join the association at any time, there is a two-week waiting period for non-emergency services.
"In other words, you can't just call and say, 'I've got to go to Pittsburgh,'" Sorg said. "You really should join ahead of time."
According to Sorg, the Ambulance Service has 35 employees: 15 paramedics and 20 Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs). A paramedic and EMT go out together on each call.
"There are people here [at the St. Marys Area Ambulance Service] 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. We've got bunk rooms and a kitchen area, and then downstairs we have the ambulances," Sorg said.
He explained that having employees onsite is essential in an emergency because it allows the association to have an average response time of under two minutes.
On average, the association has over 2,000 calls a year, while its wheelchair van provides services during another 800 instances.