ATL HIGHLANDS – The local
volunteers do more than answer every possible call and serve an active part of their community. They think out of the box when it comes to being creative about getting their message across, especially when it comes to needing some help themselves. Richard Huff, President of the Squad, is indeed grateful and pleased at the great response the squad has had from local residents since they presented a video telling their own stories on line. The video was first shown last month with an advanced notice of when and how it would be available, and has since put put on the squad’s website. The video depicts several members of the squad and takes them through the emotional reasons why they themselves became volunteers. Viewers can see and hear first hand the personal benefits each squad member feels in providing assistance to others. It also details their personal heartbreak when they cannot answer a call because of insufficient response from volunteers, and tells their story with emotion, conviction, honesty, and a plea for help. Huff explained that a minimum of two members, most always three, are needed on every single emergency call that comes in for their assistance. A certified EMT is a must on every call, he said, and could be assisted by an emergency trained, but not certified, first aid volunteer. A driver is also needed, he said, and in this squad, volunteers are trained right within the borough on the emergency vehicles in use. There are many reasons why there may be insufficient members at a call, the squad president continue, in spite of having approximately three dozen volunteers on the roster. And the Covid-19 pandemic has only added to that list, he said, noting that peoples’ schedules, time constraints and obligations have changed because of quarantines and other reasons. Huff said as soon as the squad recognized Covid would bring on an even greater challenge to ensure they could meet every call for help, they decided they needed to get out the message in new ways, ways to attract more attention. The video did it. “In the past, before Covid,” Huff explained, “there were squad members everywhere, at all borough events, at the Fireman’s Fair, everywhere there were people the presence of squad members also made it known they were volunteers and filling a need for the community. They were there to answer any questions, to invite membership, to tell people the benefits. Now, with quarantines in place, these efforts were hampered.” Huff said members felt they had become more aggressive in explaining their need, and producing the video seemed like an unusual way to get their message across. “We had a need to increase awareness and find a way to start a conversation,” he said, “and this worked.” Since the video was first shown, Huff said there has been a great response, both from new people wanting to join, people wanting to know how they can help besides becoming a member, and people making to make donations as a means of helping defray expenses the squad has. In response to questions, Huff and all squad members explain that it is time consuming and not easy to become an EMT member, which includes more than 200 hours of training for certification. Nurses who already know emergency methods of rescues take a different course for their EMT certification, he said, and drivers learn locally. The good news, he added, is that many people who start out in one area over time move on to take further courses and become EMTS, simply because of the satisfaction they get out of helping others and being, literally, in life and death situations when they can take positive action.” Squad members take great pride in their work, Huff said, recognize they are highly trained and recognize the life support they can provide. The president also praised Dr. Ken Lavelle their Medical Director not only for the pride squad members can take in their excellence, but also because of the additional services the Director enables them to offer. Only squads who have a medical director can proceed with some specifically identified emergency medical responses, he explained, and Dr. Lovell, who is affiliated with Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia, is available at all times to authorize their use of special procedures and medications and to do follow-up . “We’re serving our community,” Huff said, “we want to be the best we can be.” The numbers and times of calls fluctuate greatly, he continued, noting there have been 383 so far this year, and figures have risen as high as 640 in a year. Calls can be as simple as a scrape or minor wound, or as serious as cardiac arrest or breathing problems. Nor is there any particular time of day or night when it is more difficult to get responders, though early mornings, when parents are getting children out to school or heading to work can present problems. He himself has been a member since 2005 when he felt frustrated at seeing an emergency situation and not being able to do anything about it. Similar stories are told by other squad members, but all realize one person really can make a difference. “Our organization is made up of teachers, lawyers, carpenters, office workers, nurses, stay-at-home moms. We’re a place where people can use their previous experience in finance, marketing, education, psychology, technology and more, to make meaningful contributions to the Squad,” Huff said. He added there are more benefits in addition to personal satisfaction, include eligibility for college tuition benefits under the Volunteer Tuition Credit Program, the Atlantic Highlands funded Length of Service Awards Program, and various discounts afforded first responders throughout the state. “This is a great time to join our team and become a member of this dynamic organization,” said Chief Ann Schoeller, the squad’s first female chief. “It comes down to, ‘we’re a team,’ “she said, “we’ve been a squad in Atlantic Highlands since 1929, we work together, we help each other, we are all dedicated and we all try to be flexible . We just want to be there to help our neighbor.” Persons wishing to know more about the local First Aid Squad can visit their website at AHFAS. Org, call their non-emergency line at 732-291-8118 or e-mail email@example.com. Any member swill be happy to share the joy of being a member.