By Caroline Fassett | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
December 25, 2020
A nurse. A science teacher. A gym owner. The head of a non-profit. A volunteer EMT. A wedding officiant. Six people. All linked by what has connected us all in 2020 - the coronavirus pandemic. Whatever we thought 2020 was going to be, COVID-19 changed everything.
As we come to the close of the year, NJ Advance Media asked New Jerseyans to reflect on the past 12 months, and share their thoughts and their hopes for the future. This series of essays, videos and interviews, called Can’t stop us | How Jerseyans adapted, came together and persevered in 2020, continues below.
NJ Advance Media recently sat down for an in-depth video interview with Jason Mayer, a 21-year-old volunteer and EMS lieutenant for the South Branch Emergency Services in Hunterdon County.
In this interview, Mayer reflects on the unprecedented events of this past year that stirred “a big change” from the normal for himself and for the squad — particularly at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, when the world was mostly unaware of what the virus even is.
“The biggest thing I’ll never forget is my first call with a (COVID-19) patient ... donning all this new PPE that we wear — our gowns, our N95 masks, our eye protection,” Mayer said. “And just going into this building and we’re not sure exactly what we’re up against, and then we’re just relying back on our training and our PPE to help keep us safe.”
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.
Clinton First Aid & Rescue Squad and High Bridge Emergency Squad Proudly Announce a New Name and Details of July 1 Merger
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.
Clinton and High Bridge, NJ…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.