Pre-Island Preparations: Emergency Services

As I jogged along Corn Neck Road this afternoon, I witnessed a scary scene. Two bicycles collided on a hill with some force and speed. One individual was left unable to move. This is the first real accident on the island and as the others surrounding dialed 911, I began to question what and who would respond to the call? I have heard stories about injuries on the island and how little the island has to offer in services. This wasn’t what I lent in advice to the situation, but the knowledge of who to call and what to expect as a response is definitely valuable on the island.

For Medical Emergencies:

Call 911, mainland dispatchers can send an ambulance to your location. For Medical Center (401) 466-2974.


  “The Medical Center and Block Island Rescue Squad, in conjunction with Interstate Navigation (the ferry company), New England Airlines, and   regional helicopter ambulance services, arrange for and provide emergency medical transport to mainland hospitals, when critical care is needed”

Urgent care patients are seen as need, it is best to call ahead. The Medical center is located at 6 Payne Road (behind the Block Island School). It is open Monday-Friday, June to Sept., 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.; October to May, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Two doctors work on staff, and specialist (dentist, chiropractor, etc.) visit routinely.

When an emergency is called in the police and reuse squad will responded, but understand that they are limited in numbers. For serious injuries, helicopters are called in and patients are air lifted to the mainland for treatment.

For Ticks:

With Block Island being know for its high tick population, do a daily tick check to ensure you didn’t pick anything up (even just at the beach!) Not all ticks carry Lyme, but it important to spot the bug within 24hours of the bite. Consult a physician as soon as possible and you can be prescribed medication to make sure you do not contract the disease. An island physician at the medical center can make this check, but likely the medication will have to come from off-island.

For Medications:

There are no pharmacies on the island, so pack extras and if you do need a prescription refilled, this can be done via McQuades Pharmacy in Westerly, RI who works with New England Airlines to fly the drugs to the island, they can be reached at (401) 596-0277.

I don’t mean to scare anyone away from the island with this piece, but only to give everyone information on what to do in case of an emergency. As you can see, it is best to avoid serious trauma on the island. To do so remember a few basics:

  • Check for Ticks daily
  • Wear a helmet on mopeds AND bicycles
  • Drink plenty of water and protect yourself from the sun
  • Be careful with risky swimmers, never swim alone or in bad weather
  • Pack your medications (and extras)
  • If you are under the influence stay away from roads, bikes, water, etc,

I was as I saw the recuse squad respond within minutes of being called with an ambulance, and a police truck. It was probably another 30 minutes when I could see the helicopter landing at the medical center. I believe he will be okay after a few stiches, but hey he doesn’t have to pay for the ferry ride home! (Too soon? Yeah, that one was way too soon, my bad). Take a look at the annual report for the rescue squad to see exactly how much they do. Luckily there was only 1 pedestrian accident with a boogie board.


3 thoughts on “Pre-Island Preparations: Emergency Services”

  1. I would note the following corrections. RI has an enhanced 911 system which means all calls are routed through the main system in Providence. Identify your location as Block Island and its a quick switch to Island Emergency Dispatch. One caveat, if you are on the far west and south west sides of the island, you may not reach 911 through the Island tower, but rather the tower on the end of Long Island. Again, simply identify your location as Block Island, Rhode Island and you are quickly transferred to Island Dispatch. Your readers should also be aware that the Medical Center is by appointment during regular business hours. Walk-ins whose illness or injury are not critical in nature can wait several hours to be seen. I have experienced this myself and it is not a fun time. Although the staff does their best to accommodate you, it is best to have an appointment. CVS and RiteAid in Westerly also service the Island for prescription needs.


  2. Prophylactic doses of antibiotics do not “prevent” Lyme disease infections. They can however boost your immune system’s attempt to combat it. There is a specific time frame in which you can receive it after a tick is removed. It is probably best if you avoid giving medical advice as you are not a medical care provider. You should leave your statement at, “consult your physician”.
    Further, Island EMS has never failed to render timely aid no matter how busy they are – so your comment about limited numbers is scary at best, dangerously misguided at worst.


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