The People's EMS
BSVAC is the nation’s first multi-cultural volunteer ambulance corps and EMT training facility, founded in 1988 by two EMS workers, Captain James "Rocky" Robinson" and Specialist Joe Perez. "The Vollies" serve a community disproportionately affected by physical and economic trauma. When BSVAC first began operations, the neighborhood was ravaged by violence related to crack cocaine. Bed-Stuy was described by the national media at the time as "The American Beirut," and the response time for city ambulances averaged about 30 minutes. That was unacceptable to Rocky and Joe, who volunteered their free time to respond to emergency calls on foot, arriving to the scene within 5 minutes. Bed-Stuy residents began to refer to them as "The People's EMS." Today, BSVAC responds to over 100 emergency calls a month with an average response time of less than 4 minutes.
In addition to providing medical services, BSVAC has worked tirelessly to teach life-saving skills to Bed-Stuy residents and connect them to careers in emergency medicine. Rocky and Joe taught young men and women, many of whom were caught up in gangs or drugs, that they could have meaningful careers as life-savers. To date, thousands of local residents have been trained through certified CPR, first aid and EMT training programs. Graduates have attained full-time positions as EMTs, and some even go on to become paramedics, nurses, physicians' assistants, and doctors.
While Bed-Stuy has come a long way since the days of BSVAC's founding, the neighborhood still exhibits stark disparities. The rate of felony assaults in Bed-Stuy stood around 5.9 per 1,000 residents in 2013, as compared to 2.4 per 1,000 across the whole city. And in some of the Bed-Stuy census tracts, the median household income is just $19,000, about $33,000 less than the median in New York City as a whole. BSVAC treats gun shot and stabbing wounds every week, and our classroom is constantly packed with residents trying to start secure careers.
Despite operating on a shoe-string budget, BSVAC extends its impact beyond Bed-Stuy as well, responding to Ground Zero on 9/11, to Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, and to Haiti on three separate occasions after the earthquake in 2010.
For its remarkable accomplishments and ongoing efforts, BSVAC has received numerous honors, including: Robin Hood Foundation Hero of the Year Award, New York City Hero Award, American Institute for Public Service Jefferson Award, Points of Light Award (awarded by President George Bush), Maxwell House Hero Search Award, and proclamations from the New York City Council, New York State Legislature, and Haitian Ministry of Health.