Who We Are
“To provide free non-emergency transportation for ambulatory and wheelchair passengers from their places of residence to and from medical facilities throughout Indian River County.”
Door-to-door service is available to anyone in the county simply by calling in advance and making a reservation. Passengers may be ambulatory or in a wheelchair. The Squad does not transport emergency cases.
The Squad is funded solely by donations, and no fee is charged for any transportation.
All drivers are volunteers.
The Indian River County Volunteer Ambulance Squad, Inc. is a non-profit corporation registered in accordance with U.S. federal law 501(c)(3).
The Squad receives no agency or government support for its projects or operating expenses. Its sole source of income is private donations.
Prior to its formation in 1966, all emergency ambulance services in Indian River County were provided by local funeral homes. The need arose for a true ambulance service or "squad" when local funeral homes began to suspend their response to emergency calls.
Bill Turner, then head of local radio station WTTB, formed a committee composed of English teacher Jim Montgomery, attorney B.T. Cooksey, Joe Egan, School Superintendent William McClure, Lee Nuzie, Dr. Frank Wilson, Robert Chesbrough, and Richard Todd. The group held its first meeting in March of 1966. They quickly raised over 100 volunteers and the Squad made its first official run on May 1, 1966. Then Vero Beach Mayor Fred Prestin declared the week of October 30 through November 5, 1966 as Indian River County Volunteer Ambulance Squad week and delivered a verbal commendation to the over 100 volunteers.
The ambulance squad was first housed in its main headquarters on 17th Ave. just north of the Vero Beach Senior High School adjacent to the old Indian River County Jail. The squad was manned full-time exclusively by volunteers and was open to men and women age 16 and over. When the present location, then known as the "Beach station" was constructed, it was manned during the day shifts and weekends depending on availability of volunteer crews.
From 1966 until 1989 the squad provided basic life support (BLS) care and transport to residents of Indian River County. Originally service was provided in the old-style Cadillac ambulances similar in design to funeral home hearses with a driver and a trained first aider. With the advent of the emergency medical technician programs (EMT) in the early 1970s, an ambulance “unit crew” consisted of at least 3 individuals, an EMT with more than 130 hours of classroom training, a First Aider who had passed all necessary BLS training courses and a driver also trained in First Aid, cardiopulmonary resuscitation and ambulance driving. Each three units were also supported by a volunteer dispatcher who served as the communication link with patients, hospitals, and other local authorities. Units were organized into four 6-hour shifts in order to provide the community with full 24-hour a day service.
In April 1984, the Sebastian Volunteer Ambulance Squad consolidated with the IRCVAS in an effort to improve response times and coverage in the north county.
In the 1970s and 80s, the squad was one of the most popular and respected organizations in the county. Business men and women, retirees and students alike volunteered their money and time to make sure that the county was covered 24 hours a day, seven days a week with a service that provided basic life support. For many of its formative years, the largest fundraiser for the squad was also the largest golf tournament in Indian River County. The annual Indian River County volunteer ambulance squad tournament was annually run by local resident Ace Cappelen.
In 1989, Indian River County finally integrated advanced life support (ALS) into the county through the use of paramedics and ultimately combined fire and EMS services into the Indian River County Fire Rescue Division. Thus the need for volunteer emergency transportation services was eliminated.
However, the Volunteer Ambulance Squad still continues its tradition of public service by providing non-emergency transportation to Indian River County residents in need of medical treatment. All drivers are volunteers. In 2011 the Squad completed over 13,000 trips, and covered over 110,000 miles in bringing residents to and from their doctors, therapists, dentists, and laboratories.