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A Tall ‘EMS Week’ Salute to NYC’s Lifesavers

New York, NY – Seven members of the FDNY’s Emergency Medical Services are being honored as part of “EMS Week” — an initiative to promote public safety among New Yorkers and highlight the lifesaving work of the 4,400 EMS workers.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made celebrating these hardworking individuals even more important this year, as they deal with a huge spike in emergencies over last year.

Pre-pandemic, EMS workers responded to approximately 4,000 emergencies daily, according to the FDNY. At the height of the pandemic — March 30th —they responded to 6,500 calls. 

“EMS Week is a time each year when we stop to acknowledge and celebrate the tremendous work of our EMTs and Paramedics,” said Fire Commissioner Daniel A. Nigro. “COVID-19 has forced us to postpone or cancel our events this year, but I think every New Yorker – and those around the world – have witnessed the heroic efforts of our members during this pandemic and realized why they are rightfully known as the best in our city.”

This year’s honorees include FDNY Paramedics Xiaotian Bao (Station 8, Manhattan), Juan Gavilanes (Station 31, Brooklyn) and Kimberly Laychock (Division 5, Staten Island); FDNY EMT’s Michael Waternberg (Station 4, Manhattan), Jasmine Miranda (Station 46, Queens) and David Tout-Puissant (Station 8, Manhattan), as well as Captain Lorena Concepcion-Martinez (Station 55, Bronx). 

Capt. Concepcion-Martinez, an 18-year veteran less than two years into her new role as captain, is taking the job all in stride despite the new difficulties presented by the pandemic. She was also thrilled by the acknowledgment.

“I’m ecstatic that I was able to represent the EMS and my station,” Capt. Concepcion-Martinez said. “It’s been an absolute honor.”

Capt. Concepcion-Martinez credits her leadership classes, her preparedness and her open personality for helping her manage her team, which consists of 85 members. 

“It’s been incredibly difficult to see my members overwhelmed with cardiac arrests — it’s taken a toll on them. But my key thing is to keep the morale going in the station and making sure that we have everything we need and being there to help them psychologically,” the captain added.

The FDNY has a Counseling Service Unit and offers peer-to-peer counselors for its retirees and current members.

“Some of them haven’t been home to see their families, so my key thing was to make sure that they stayed healthy mentally and physically,” Capt. Concepcion-Martinez continued. “I have an open-door policy so that they know they can come to me, ask questions and get whatever they needed.”

Capt. Concepcion-Martinez went to George Washington High School (1997) in Uptown Manhattan, which taught first responder classes. That experience sparked her interest in serving the community. After graduating, she immediately became a cadet at her current station. 

Capt. Concepcion-Martinez grew up in Washington Heights and currently lives in Bayshore, L.I., another area hit hard by the pandemic.

“The social distancing and the mask is all relatively new to the people, but we have the luxury most people in the city don’t have — we live in homes and have backyards that they can stretch out and get some sun,” the captain said. “People in other boroughs are cooped up in small apartments, so I’m blessed that I have that.”

Capt. Concepcion-Martinez is also married to a firefighter. For a month, their three daughters, ages 15, 3 and 2, all lived with her mother in Manhattan. 

Posters on the FDNY Museum building honor the heroic way EMS workers have responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We didn’t want them to get sick,” said the mom who misses their hugs. “We knew it was a reality if one of us got sick, but so far we’ve been lucky.”

In the few moments that she gets downtime, Capt. Concepcion-Martinez streams movies, draws, and listens to salsa and Reggaeton. She’s also been learning to cook new recipes with her husband to decompress during the pandemic. 

“I’m looking forward to things getting back to normal and doing a big barbecue for friends and family,” Capt. Concepcion-Martinez said.

She is also very proud of Station 55. 

“If a member went out sick another member stepped up,” said Capt. Concepcion-Martinez. “They worked to make sure that the community had ambulances that they needed.”

Commissioner Nigro is just as proud of Capt. Concepcion-Martinez and this year’s fellow honorees. 

“The training, professionalism, and unwavering dedication to care for their patients have been on display each and every day as they’ve shouldered the highest call volume in our Department’s history,” said Comm. Nigro. “I’m incredibly proud of their remarkable service.”

Concepcion-Martinez and the other honorees are featured on an EMS Week poster. Memorabilia from the NYC EMS Museum in Fort Totten will also be sent out through the FDNY’s social media. Images from this year’s poster will also be displayed on the exterior of the NYC Fire Museum, located at 278 Spring Street in Manhattan. 

“Though the museum is currently closed, New Yorkers can share their gratitude with members of FDNY EMS for their extraordinary efforts during the COVID-19 crisis, by submitting notes, videos, and cards, or other objects through the FDNY Museum’s “Unmasking Our Heroes” project.

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