Thousand Islands Emergency Rescue Service (TIERS), was conceived as a consolidation of emergency medical services (EMS), then offered by the Clayton and LaFargeville fire departments until 2003. For many years, fire departments had experienced increasing difficulties recruiting Emergency Medical Technicians and were unable to muster crews to respond to emergencies and required Guilfoyle Ambulance to respond from Watertown. This gap in long response time from Watertown was not life-saving in a true emergency and people began to take notice.
As fire chiefs from Clayton and LaFargeville Fire Departments sought ways to provide full-time ambulance service with the highest level of care possible, the Town of Clayton and Town of Orleans fire districts bridged part of the gap by joining to hire an advanced-level Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), to help cover weekday hours. Still, it fell to a few dedicated volunteers to cover the hundreds of medical emergencies that occurred nights and weekends.
In 2001, Town officials became more aware of the poor ambulance responses and joined the fire departments and fire districts to put together a group of concerned citizens to design a solution. After two years and hundreds of hours of collaborative effort, it was decided to create an independent non-profit ambulance service designed to meet the needs of the Towns of Orleans and Clayton. This group of individuals created the Thousand Islands Emergency Rescue Service, Inc. (TIERS) and in less than three months TIERS was founded and incorporated in the fall of 2002.
Although TIERS was official on paper it still had to be approved to become an agency through the New York State Department of Heath to operate a service. During a transitional period the Town of Clayton took a lead in establishing a “municipal ambulance operating certificate” and contracted with TIERS Inc. to provide service to the towns. On January 1, 2003, at 12:01 AM, TIERS was in service providing fully staffed paramedic level emergency medical service to the citizens of the Towns of Clayton and Orleans.
In its first months of service TIERS leased a small home on Brooks Drive in Clayton and stored ambulances during the nights at Phinney’s Chevrolet in the car wash bays. In the fall of 2004 TIERS was able to move to its current facilities at the former Winergrath’s Lumber at 100 Union Street in Clayton. After extensive renovations to the building, as sleeping quarters for crews, a kitchen area, dining area, living quarters and a classroom for training, the “new” facility began to take shape as an ambulance station.
In 2008 TIERS did over 1100 emergency calls in the Town of Clayton and Orleans and has held multiple health and wellness programs for the community over the last 10 years as well. TIERS currently hosts multiple community classes in CPR, First Aid, Emergency Medical Technician, Injury from Fall Awareness to the elderly and Babysitter First Aid classes. TIERS has also initiated programs to revisit patients that it has transported in the ambulance and does multiple Blood Pressure Clinics in the community. TIERS Paramedics and volunteers take great pride in hosting programs for children at Guardino School an LaFargeville Central on “How to Dial 911,” “Sammy the Seatbelt”, a segment on car seatbelt use, and “Bandaid 101” that instructs children on the equipment in the ambulances and how to put a band aid on themselves.
Because of the community outreach programs that TIERS has initiated and the stellar work that the staff and volunteers have done for the community they service, Thousand Islands Emergency Rescue Service was selected by NYS Department of Health EMS Bureau at EMS Agency of the Year for 2008.
In 2009, long-time TI-Rescue member Mark Davis was shot and killed by a patient while responding to a call in Cape Vincent as an EMT with The Cape Vincent Volunteer Fire Department. A huge funeral for the 25-year-old student paramedic drew people and apparatus from up and down the US and Canadian East Coast. Although Marks death was senseless the personnel of TIERS rallied to continue a course of excellence in EMS and establish a name of recognition that continues.
TIERS has a committed and varied Board of Directors from many walks of life who bring a rounded aspect to leadership, vision, business and financial expertise. The Orleans and Clayton Town Supervisors serve as ex-officio members of the Board, and have greatly facilitated our progress to date.
TIERS history is a testimony to what volunteers and exemplary EMS staff can do for the community they serve. Because of our ability to grow, serve our community, and provide our multiple programs, we have out grown our facility. More importantly we do not have the ability to change our current structure to meet some of the needs for our own potential strategic goals in a leased older structure. We have determined that it is the right avenue to pursue a new more efficient designed building in the Clayton area to meet our needs. TIERS will continue to serve the community proudly for this generation and into the next.