The merger of Clinton First Aid & Rescue Squad and High Bridge Emergency Squad is complete. The mission to provide the highest quality emergency medical care continues. More volunteers are needed now.
Clinton and High Bridge, NJ…When someone in these communities needs urgent medical treatment, emergency rescue, or rapid and safe hospital transit, South Branch Emergency Services now answers the call.
South Branch Emergency Services was created by the merger of two long-serving emergency service organizations: Clinton First Aid & Rescue Squad and High Bridge Emergency Squad. Research convinced leaders of both founding organizations and a Steering Committee of residents, business owners, and elected officials from both communities that a merger would yield quicker response times and other efficiencies. The Committee provided planning and guidance that resulted in the new South Branch Emergency Services (SBES), which launched July 1. SBES serves the same northern areas of Hunterdon County that the two former organizations did: the Town of Clinton, Clinton Township, High Bridge, Lebanon Borough, and parts of Franklin Township and Union Township.
Key Community Benefits
The former Clinton building at 48 Old Highway 22 in the Town of Clinton and the High Bridge building at 95 West Main Street in High Bridge remain open. High Bridge's evening staffing has changed from on-call to on-site. Both Clinton and High Bridge ambulances and other apparatus remain in service – now sporting new decals bearing the South Branch name. A single administrative team can serve what was two organizations and use resources more efficiently. Most importantly, SBES brings together the skills, experience, and dedication of High Bridge’s 20 volunteers, Clinton’s 90 volunteers, and Clinton’s 40 paid full- and part-time EMTs.
New Volunteers are Needed NOW
The need for emergency medical care has never been higher. South Branch Chief Frank Setnicky and Battalion Chief John “JT” Silliman agree the key to continuously improving service as call volumes keep rising is simple: More volunteers.
“Simple doesn’t mean easy,” Silliman said. Setnicky agrees. “There is a nationwide shortage of volunteer first responders, and we have felt the impact here in Hunterdon County, too.”
Both men have lived in and served the community for many years, and they have faith in their neighbors.
“Once people realize we are a predominantly volunteer organization, we need volunteers now, and that no experience is necessary to join, they will want to help,” Silliman said.
“Training, equipment and gear are free,” added Setnicky. “You will learn how to save lives – there is no more meaningful way to give back. And you will quickly start making a difference.”
Training begins with specialized CPR and first aid classes, after which volunteers can assist EMTs on ambulance calls, gaining experience that helps prepare them for the EMT course and exams.
Training includes learning to stay safe while helping others, covering everything from how to safely lift a patient to preventing the spread of viruses, including COVID-19. COVID-19 precautions, such as wearing masks, will also be observed during training.
The two SBES officers add that members will receive as much as they give, including a profound sense of accomplishment and purpose and the life-long friendship of other members.
There are many different and vital ways to volunteer with SBES, including the Cadet program for teens ages 14 through 18 and non-emergency support roles. Those interested should visit www.SBES365.org to learn more or fill out a volunteer inquiry form. Interested, but not certain? Consider the Observer Program. Anyone 18 or older can sign up to spend one shift riding along with the crew, no experience necessary.
Congratulations Adrian VanNatta of Union Township, who graduated earlier this month from North Hunterdon High School. Adrian currently services as a Cadet member and joined us through High Bridge Emergency Squad in October 2016.
Cadet VanNatta joins a long list of family members who have served in the Hunterdon County EMS community, and we are proud to have him as part of our team.
He has helped in many ways with our social media and web presence over the past couple of years, and produced the inspiration behind what has become the new department patch for South Branch Emergency Services.
Adrian will be headed off to school for Automotive and Diesel mechanics in the near future. Way to go Adrian!
By working together as a single organization, the same dedicated group of EMTs and Rescue Associates will bring faster and better emergency care to both communities.
Throughout each of their decades-long histories, Clinton First Aid & Rescue Squad and High Bridge Emergency Squad have pursued the same goal: Serving their communities by protecting the health and safety of the people who live in, work in, or visit their communities. Now, with the guidance of local residents, business owners, government officials, they are joining together to create one new organization to serve those communities better.
South Branch Emergency Services will officially launch on July 1.
Discussions that led to this important and necessary step began nearly two years ago. In the face of shifting populations, growing demands on limited resources, and a decline in the number of volunteer EMTs and rescue associates nationwide, the leadership of both organizations knew something had to be done to insure they could continue to provide high quality emergency services for many decades to come. In January 2019, a Steering Committee comprised of community residents, local business leaders, elected and appointed officials, and representatives from both emergency service organizations was formed. After reviewing current conditions and considering ways to improve them, the committee concluded that a merger was the best option. The committee, Clinton First Aid & Rescue, and High Bridge Emergency Squad, began forming a new organization that will build on the strengths of its two predecessors and seamlessly serve both communities.
South Branch Emergency Services will bring together the skills and dedication of High Bridge’s 20 volunteers, Clinton’s 90 volunteers, and Clinton’s 40 paid full- and part-time EMTs and instructors. During emergencies, residents of both municipalities will continue to be helped by their first-responder neighbors. Both the current Clinton building at 48 Old Highway 22 in the Town of Clinton and the High Bridge building at 95 West Main Street in High Bridge will remain open. High Bridge station’s evening staffing is currently on-call, but after the merger, staff will be on-site in the evenings, as will remain the case in Clinton. While they will sport new decals with the new organization’s name, High Bridge’s white ambulances and Clinton’s red ones will remain in service.
Strength in Numbers and Experience
“High Bridge residents will see many benefits – more staff, more specialty equipment at our disposal, and improved response times,” said High Bridge Chief John “JT” Silliman.
The strength of those additional numbers will benefit Clinton residents, too, agreed Clinton First Aid & Rescue Chief Frank Setnicky. “We will also be streamlining operations by having one administrative group instead of two. And, since we will reduce any equipment or vehicles that are redundant, we will also reduce the cost for all.”
“I know the merger is the right move for both organizations and the towns they serve,” said High Bridge Resident and Merger Steering Committee Vice-Chairman James Harris, a retired Union Township firefighter and EMT who now works as a Union County 911dispatcher. “More EMTs will allow for longer rest periods between shifts,” he said. This will lead to better retention of personnel while helping them to achieve a better balance of family/work/volunteer duties.”
“I have worked with both rescue squads for over 30 years, and they are very similar,” Merger Steering Committee Chairman and Clinton representative Dan “Doctor D” Torrone, a community activist and entertainer, said. “Clinton and High Bridge share the same mission. Both are built on a tradition of volunteerism that often includes multiple generations of local families. Both provide excellent emergency care, yet wanted to improve the services they offer our community. This merger does just that.”
South Branch Emergency Services will be led by a mix of current leaders from both organizations. Setnicky will be the first chief of the new organization. Silliman will be one of the first two battalion chiefs. Clinton President Sharon Burham will be South Branch’s first president. High Bridge President Melanie Ikenson Sloyer will be it’s first president-elect.
“I think this shows our unity, and that neither organization is more important or less important than the other organization,” Sloyer said.
Building Upon an Existing Relationship
The Clinton and High Bridge squads have always worked together: When one organization responds to a call for help, the other stands ready to step in if more hands are needed or a second emergency occurs. High Bridge is a 100 percent volunteer organization. Clinton is also mostly staffed by volunteers, but also has paid EMTs who cover the hours when volunteers aren’t available both in Clinton and in High Bridge.
Since January, members of the two squads have trained and drilled together, too. Clinton Deputy Chief for EMS Bucky Buchanan, who will retain that role with South Branch, invited High Bridge volunteers to join Clinton at Clinton’s training center. EMS squad members form friendships that feel more like family, and training together has helped to start forging those bonds among members of the two squads, Sloyer said.
That training center and the varied types of training it provides offers big benefits for current High Bridge volunteers, Silliman noted. “They can take advanced training there, and take on additional roles, such as becoming part of a rescue team.”
What’s In A Name?
Members of both organizations worked hard to choose a name that would represent both communities. The South Branch in South Branch Emergency Services refers to the South Branch of the Raritan River, which connects the two towns. The new organization’s logo features that river, along with an image of the Clinton’s iconic Red Mill and the graceful arches from which High Bridge takes its name.
Honoring the High Bridge and Clinton Traditions While Making History Together
High Bridge Emergency Squad and Clinton First Aid & Rescue Squad have served their communities for many decades. High Bridge was incorporated in 1953, and Clinton in 1968, both by people who saw a need in their community, wanted to help, and were willing to work hard to make it happen. Each has saved many lives. And each has created its own community, one where multiple generations of the same families volunteer, and unrelated volunteers become family.
“A lot of people put an awful lot of time into these organizations to start them. They put an awful lot of time in, and don’t want to just forget about that,” Silliman said. “We still have some of the sons of the founders who are active members.”
Setnicky notes this is not the first time that volunteers from High Bridge will respond to Clinton emergencies. “High Bridge covered the Clinton area before CFARS was founded,” he notes. “Now here we are in 2020 and back together as one organization,” he notes.
Sloyer notes that both the High Bridge and Clinton squad buildings have displays of old photos, awards, and newspaper clippings that tell its story.
“Those displays will stay, and we’ll be able to add to them with new pictures and newspaper articles that tell our new story together,” she said.
When things go wrong, sometimes very wrong, the community calls 9-1-1 for help. South Branch Emergency Services has a specialized team of rescuers that help in answering that call when it comes to someone injured, incapacitated or trapped in a space and has to be rescued.
One of the best ways to prepare is to practice. Members of the Rescue Services Unit here at SBES held a drill, testing some of the skills they have learned in the past, in case those are needed. This helps these professions prepare for and execute a confined space rescue in a timely manner. Rescue drills provide personnel the experience of working through different scenarios in order to familiarize themselves with situations they could encounter. Conducting rescue drills helps prepare our teams to, when necessary, rescue those in need.
Confined Space Rescues fall into two categories. There are time-sensitive, which usually mean an oxygen-deficient atmosphere or medical emergency exist and may require rescuers to be on supplemental air; or non-time-sensitive, in which case our crews have time to conduct an entry at a slower, more deliberate pace, and usually will not require supplemental air.
There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to Confined Space Rescues. Entrants must wear full body harness, have retrieval lines in place, and may be on supplied air to make their entries. This means communications to the outside or safe area, rope lines for entry and retrieval, supplied air set ups, and command to of all the items occurring. All of these items are logged into a "Confined Space Entry Permit" to document the activities and roles of each rescuer.
Having this specialized rescue team is a service that South Branch Emergency Services offers to our response area, but we also are part of a larger, more complex team called the Hunterdon County Technical Rescue Task Force. For events that may exceed our capabilities, or may be in an area not covered by a CSR Rescue Team, the HCTRTF stands ready to respond. Made up of trained rescuers from not only SBES, but also the Flemington-Raritan First Aid & Rescue Squad, Whitehouse Rescue Squad, Lambertville Fire Department, the team is organized by the Hunterdon County Department of Public Safety.
Each year, our Confined Space Rescue Technicians must make at least one "Entry", and this drill allowed several of our volunteers and staff alike to make that entry.
If you would like information on how to become a volunteer of our Rescue Services Team, visit our website at https://www.sbes365.org
Congratulations to SBES EMT Estelle Yeung on your graduation with High Honors from the Hunterdon County Biomedical Sciences Academy and North Hunterdon High School!
Estelle joined Clinton First Aid & Rescue Squad in January 2019, going on to complete her studies and earning her NJ and National EMT in September 2019, and remains an active volunteer with South Branch Emergency Services.
During her senior year, EMT Yeung received the following awards:
EMT Yeung will be headed off to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore this fall. Congrats and great job Estelle!
Congratulations to EMT Zachary Ailara of Frenchtown, who graduated yesterday from North Hunterdon High School. Zach joined the Clinton First Aid & Rescue Squad as a Cadet in November 2018 after meeting us as a student with Hunterdon County Vocational School District's Biomedical Sciences Academy.
Having completed his EMT training in our 2019 summer class, Zach quickly completed his steps to becoming a volunteer Team Member serving our communities.
He graduated with High Honors, a member of the National Tech Society, graduate of the BioMed program, and member of Science Honors Society. Zach is also the recipient of the Hunterdon-Warren Scholar Athlete award.
After some time off, we're sure playing soccer, over the summer, EMT Ailara will be headed to Quinnipiac University in Connecticut.
Outstanding Job Zach!
Last evening 16 members from both Clinton and High Bridge stations, trained together on marine rescue and South Branch River familiarization.
Crews staffing both Marine 455-3 and Marine 145 traveled up river checking water levels and accessibility locations for rescue operations. While crews did find parts that the boats had to portaged, they were able to adapt and over come. Making simple solutions to get to their goal, crews were able to travel from the spill way of spruce run reservoir about a mile and a half up river just passed the route 31/Halstead Street intersection. Crews also trained on night navigation without the use of GPS systems and night swims.
Meanwhile, other members practiced there shore-based rescue skills such as using rope throw bags.
The drill concluded around 22:00 hours after some much needed cleaning.
Congratulations out to our latest volunteer Briana Bothe on your graduation for Hunterdon Central High School. Briana joined the Clinton First Aid & Rescue Squad as a cadet member in 2018, and completed her EMT Training last year.
Graduating from HCRHS with Honors, EMT Bothe also received a $1,000 scholarship from the George Daly Memorial Scholarship Foundation.
The George Daly Memorial Scholarship Fund was established to honor a cherished son, brother and friend whom was lost on February 12, 2015. George graduated with high honors in 2013 from HCRHS, where he was a member o the National Honor Society, Student Council, and was a team leader in Teen PEP.
At the end of the summer, Briana will be headed off to the University of Georgia! WAY TO GO from all your fellow members of South Branch Emergency Services!
Congratulations out tonight to cadet member Kaitlyn Valendo of Fords, NJ on your graduation from Union Catholic High School, and being awarded the Kevin Apuzzio Memorial Foundation Scholarship.
Kevin Apuzzio was a member of Union Catholic Class of 2002 and a firefighter with the East Franklin Fire Department. On April 11, 2006, Kevin gave his life in the line of duty while attempting to save the life of another. Kevin was a person of deep faith and a model of courage and perseverance. He was committed to helping others and worked hard to make a difference in his community.
The Kevin A Apuzzio Memorial Award is presented to an industrious senior who, like Kevin, is committed to his or her studies and dedicated to service and who has shown this commitment through his or her work as a volunteer in the medical field. Kaitlyn received a $750 award.
EMT Valendo joined SBES as a cadet of Clinton First Aid & Rescue Squad in January 2019, and has served as one of our more active Cadet EMTs.
The South Branch Emergency Services, Inc dba Clinton First Aid & Rescue Squad (SBES) is a recipient in a recent round of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants for first responders. The grant competitive, meaning we received these funds based on the merits of the Squad's request to offer better protection for our members.
Awarded last September 8th, the $104,000 FY2018 Assistance to Firefighters Grants was used to purchase sets of EMS non-firefighting turn out gear to include blood-borne-pathogen resistant rescue jackets, ANSI compliant traffic vests, helmets, gloves, googles, pants and boots for more than 50 members of the organization.
SBES contributed 10% to the cost-sharing purchase, which "without receiving a grant like this, would have been impossible to update to the latest available protection for our members", stated Frank Setnicky, Chief.
:"When we first applied for this grant in October of 2018, we had no idea if we would be able to make this project possible" stated H. Bucky Buchanan, Deputy Chief of EMS. "For the past several years, since the AFG Grant program has allowed EMS Agencies like ours to apply, we have submitted unsuccessful applications for funding of multiple projects". This year that changed with the award of the departments first Assistance to Firefighters Grant.
"Not only are many of our personnel receiving issued gear, but we are also able to replace State-mandated gear on all our ambulances, some of which dates back over 23 years old" stated Chris Miller, Deputy Chief of Rescue.
Thanks go out to Congressman Tom Malinowski who not only wrote a letter of support for this project, but also time to visit with our leadership last year to review our application request. We'd also like to show our appreciation to the Town of Clinton Mayor Janice Kovach and Council for offering support of our applications throughout the years.