When Sam Shotzberger retired three years ago, he knew that he wanted to give back to the Cazenovia community. It just “seems like the thing we do here,” said Shotzberger. “A lot of people give time in some way to make this a special place.”
Shotzberger moved to the area 20 years ago when he took a job with a company in Syracuse. Ten years later, he started his own company and worked there until his retirement in 2015. He and his wife Julie raised all of their kids in Cazenovia and are both involved in several organizations but Shotzberger confides “CAVAC is my place.”
When he retired, his wife suggested he talk to some friends who worked at the Cazenovia Area Volunteer Ambulance Corp (CAVAC). He started training as a driver in January of 2016 and after a few months began driving by himself. Shotzberger liked that the crew and other members accepted him as part of the team.
Even when he was new and learning what to do Shotzberger said he “didn’t feel lost out there” because he had experienced paramedics with him. “The paramedics’ leadership is really good. Their ability to integrate a much less experienced person and help them is great.” Shift change is one of Shotzberger’s favorite times at CAVAC as multiple paramedics, drivers, emergency medical technicians (EMT’s) and other volunteers gather in the crew quarters giving everyone a chance to catch up and tell stories. There is a “family-type atmosphere and an effort to make this a friendly place,” Shotzberger said.
Shortly after becoming a driver, he took over the role of deputy of vehicles, assuming responsibility for keeping the ambulances maintained and running with minimal down time. CAVAC’s ambulances are made up of a truck, ambulance box and special suspension system that allows the rig to be raised and lowered to get the stretcher in and out.
Shotzberger admits “it can be complicated to figure out what’s wrong” due to the modifications to accommodate the ambulance. He’s grateful for the help of Don’s Auto Barn in New Woodstock who are quick to do most of the maintenance and mechanical repairs for CAVAC’s ambulances.
A driver’s first job is to get the ambulance to the scene. “There is only a minute or two between the time when the alarm sounds and when the ambulance pulls out and in that time you need to figure out exactly where you are going,” Shotzberger said.
He admits that at first this was “kind of stressful” but over time this improved with experience and the support of the other crew members. He also emphasized how important it is for homeowners to have house numbers clearly marked and viewable from either direction along the road so the ambulance driver doesn’t waste time trying to find the location of the emergency call.
Last year, Shotzberger completed an EMT course sponsored by CAVAC. Jeff Jones from Fayetteville Fire Department taught the course and paramedics and EMTs from CAVAC and surrounding fire departments helped with skills review and preparing for the final testing. Shotzberger took the course to be more comfortable on the job. “I feel a lot better as driver having knowledge of what’s going on around me,” said Shotzberger. “But my role at CAVAC is as a driver.”
What Shotzberger finds most interesting driving for CAVAC is being part of a real medical emergency. “Watching resources from different areas — the 911 dispatchers, fire departments and ambulance crews — all working together as a team to manage the scene. The adrenaline goes up to save the patient,” he said. Shotzberger usually works two six-hour shifts including one overnight per week. He revealed he found out quickly that you can “go from being asleep to being awake really fast.”
“I would encourage anybody to stop up or talk to people who work and volunteer here about it. We can always use more drivers,” said Shotzberger. He has asked people to consider volunteering.
“CAVAC is a huge benefit to the community. I like the fact that I can help people I know in the community and be there for them at a time of need. A lot more people can do this than think they can. You can be part of the team,” he said.
If you are interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities with CAVAC, please contact Cindy Underriner at 655-0300. CAVAC would also like to remind the community to call 911 if you need an ambulance. Do not call the CAVAC business line directly.