Shandaken Ambulance chief calls for cell phone help

By Jay Braman Jr.
Cell phone service in the Town of Shandaken remains spotty but the head of the town’s ambulance service has a plan that he thinks will help solve the problem.

Well, at least for those tech savvy residents who are Verizon customers.
Shandaken Ambulance Squad Chief Richard Muellerleile spoke before the Shandaken Town Board Monday night, reminding all present that 2011 was indeed a busy one, not only for his department but for all of the emergency services.

He reiterated a point heard all too many times. There are still massive amounts of town territory that are communication blank spots, making it impossible to contact the outside world when responding to an emergency.

But Muellerleile is aware that a growing number of cell-phone-using residents are taking advantage of an inexpensive technology known as extenders, a device that delivers a wireless signal within a small radius, enabling them to use their phones on their property even if there is no Verizon wireless signal for miles around, as is the case in much of Shandaken.

Seeking assistance
Muellerleile is making an appeal to those residents. His idea is that if the ambulance technicians had with them a map of the town showing all of the Verizon hot spots, they would be able to communicate with doctors, hospitals, helicopters, police, fire departments, and anyone else they needed too much faster than they do now.

The goal, he said, is a faster exchange of life saving information.
Muellerleile guarantees that the information given to the department will be strictly confidential and that it won’t mean that there will be a knock on the door at all hours of the night. In most cases, he said, an ambulance need only park in the drive or alongside the road to fall within the signal radius.

“Most times you won’t even know we are there,” he said.
Several shops in the Phoenicia business district already have the extenders as a service for customers.

His plea was well received by the small audience, and led to another idea.
Kathy Nolan, who ran unsuccessfully for town supervisor last fall, suggested that the town use a small portion of its “Good Neighbor Fund” to buy Verizon extenders and install them in the locations of local nonprofits like the libraries and, of course, at all of the town’s firehouses. Purchase and installation of the technology is about $300 for each location, Nolan said, so it would not a very expensive enhancement.

Anyone that has a Verizon extender and wants to let the ambulance squad know about it can do so by calling 688-5030 or by e-mailing Muellerleile at car78@shandakenambulance.org.