Free loaner life jackets for canines and kids
One lucky canine (right) is ready to go swimming in his loaner life jacket. Community Ambulance Company has opened up its people and canine life jacket loaner program to anyone in need.

Photos provided by Community Ambulance Company

Free loaner life jackets for canines and kids


SAYVILLE—Tragedy in water occurs just about every year. According to Suffolk County chief medical examiner Dr. Michael Caplan, there were 59 drowning deaths in Suffolk County between 2014 and 2016. And sadly, last week, two more deaths were added to this year’s tally. That’s why local officials and service organizations are working to prevent another tragedy.

Community Ambulance Company in Sayville recently partnered with Suffolk County Police commissioner Tim Sini and the Atlantic Coast Veterinary Specialists to help keep kids and dogs safe while on the water by offering loaner life jackets to the public for the day or weekend, at no charge.

“We have done extensive research with the Naples Florida Parks and BoatUS Foundation in regards to this program,” said Community Ambulance Company president Jamie Atkinson. “Since 2014, Naples Florida Parks has utilized a similar program, which creates 15 loaner stations up the coast of Florida.” He noted that the decision to bring that program to Suffolk residents was expanded to include dogs. 

“Many community residents have pools that may need a life jacket for a visitor during the summer months or those who come here to enjoy many of our beautiful beaches, boating opportunities, town parks and take the Sayville Ferry Service to Fire Island that do not come prepared with a flotation device.  This program gives the opportunity to be safe in any water situation,” Atkinson added.

“Anyone looking for proof of the importance of life jackets just needs to talk to a first responder who arrived at a water rescue too late,” said Sini. “You can ask most veteran police officers or detectives how heartbreaking it is when they have to respond to a call that involves an injury, or God forbid, a fatality to a child,” 

Dr. George Kramer, chief of staff at Atlantic Coast Veterinary Specialists, stated, “Even though most dogs and cats know how to swim, in an emergency situation, panic and fatigue sets in quickly, leading to drowning.  An estimated 5,000 pets drown each year in the United States.  This effort by Community Ambulance Company and the Suffolk County Police Department will help avoid needless tragedy and heartbreak.  Atlantic Coast Veterinary Specialists is proud to be a part of the effort to save lives.”

Life jackets will be lent to boaters, homeowners or residents who visit the Community Ambulance Company Headquarters on Lakeland Avenue in Sayville and sign out an infant, child, youth, adult or dog life jacket. When they’re finished using the jackets for the day or weekend, they can return the jackets to the same location. 

Community Ambulance is making 20 (five infant, five child, five youth and five adult) life jackets and 10 (two extra-small, two small, two medium, two large and two extra-large) dog jackets available for loan, allowing hundreds of children, adults and dogs from our community to stay safer on the water.  Every person who borrows a life jacket will be provided with water safety educational flyers to include how to properly size and wear the loaner jacket. 

Atkinson said the first weekend of the program, six people and one dog benefited from a loaner life jacket.

“We’re very excited about this,” Atkinson remarked. “We’re opening it up to everybody [beyond the service area of Community Ambulance]. We started it in the middle of summer to gauge [interest]. If we have to expand it, we will.” Atkinson said he would be in contact with Islip Town about opening another distribution location, in addition to the Lakeland Avenue building, to bring the program closer to the water. “We’re always thinking outside the box to bring people different programs [to keep them safe].”

BoatUS Foundation, a national nonprofit foundation whose aim is to reduce accidents and fatalities on the waterways, will add Community Ambulance Company’s loaner site to their online map, which gives the public the ability to find a loaner life jacket location within their vicinity.

If you would like to borrow a jacket, simply stop by.