The decision means Hampton, Glen Gardner, and Bethlehem Township residents will continue to receive excellent emergency care with faster response times despite a decline in volunteers.
Hunterdon County, NJ...Hampton Emergency Squad, which provides emergency medical care in Hampton, Glen Gardner and Bethlehem Township, will merge with South Branch Emergency Services on January 1, 2022, leaders from both organizations announced. The resulting organization will operate under the South Branch name and provide coverage to all areas currently served by the two entities.
“We’re very excited about it,” said Hampton Chief Penny Tampier. “The people are going to get better service.”
Residents served by Hampton are already familiar with South Branch, whose EMTs provide daytime coverage from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Currently, Hampton volunteers respond to nighttime emergencies from home, heading first to the station and then to the call. After the merger, on-duty squad members will respond directly to emergencies. “Response times should be much quicker,” Tampier said.
A decline in volunteers – gradual for years, and recently abrupt – led Hampton Emergency Squad leaders to seek the merger, Tampier said. The gradual decline in volunteer numbers and daytime availability is a problem faced by all volunteer-based emergency services, and what led Hampton to seek a daytime coverage partnership nearly two decades ago. Then in 2021, Hampton’s volunteer roster dropped sharply, from 20 EMTs. Some volunteers moved or went back to college.
“We want to be able to give the same high level of care that we were always able to in the past, the level of care that people expect from us, and this merger allows that to happen” stressed Chief Tampier.
Two Mergers in Two Years Creating a Regional Approach
South Branch was created by the 2020 merger of Clinton First Aid & Rescue Squad and High Bridge Emergency Squad.
Circumstances similar to those faced by Hampton led to the creation of South Branch Emergency Services in July 2020, when the former High Bridge Emergency Squad and Clinton First Aid & Rescue Squad merged. Hampton considered merging then, too.
The Clinton-High Bridge merger took years of work, said South Branch President Sharon Burham, but that effort included a framework to make additional mergers much simpler, allowing this second merger to take place in less than half the time. “We knew that more ambulance companies would likely want to be part of South Branch in the future, and we planned for it,” she said.
“The Hampton-South Branch merger means increasingly seamless regional service”, said South Branch Chief Frank Setnicky. “The merger means we have more people spread out in more places across northern Hunterdon County. We can send one or more crews to wherever they are needed without delay, which is especially important in larger emergencies.”
The mergers and resulting regional approach also creates further opportunities for strategic use of resources and economy of scale cost savings, noted South Branch Deputy Chief of EMS Bucky Buchanan.
Tampier noted that Hampton leadership spoke to the mayors of the towns they cover. “They have always been behind us 100 percent, and they still are going to be behind us 100 percent,” she said. “They applauded us for doing this, for taking care of their citizens.”
Because South Branch – and before it existed, Clinton First Aid – has provided daytime service to Hampton for nearly two decades, people who are served by Hampton are already familiar with South Branch and its EMTs. The volunteers from both organizations and South Branch’s paid EMTs also know each other well, Setnicky and Tampier noted.
“This is a tight-knit community and we have known and worked together for decades,” Setnicky said. “We’ve always responded together to larger incidents,” said Tampier. “We’ll just be responding together all the time now.”
Hampton’s Continuing Legacy
Hampton Emergency Squad was incorporated in 1957 and the important role its volunteers have played will not be forgotten.
Hampton’s squad building will remain in service as South Branch Emergency Services Hampton Station. It’s two ambulances and an emergency response unit will also remain in service, albeit with new South Branch decals. Hampton’s active volunteer EMTs have already begun training and running calls with existing South Branch members. Hampton’s life members – long-serving volunteers who remain part of the organization even if they no longer respond to emergencies – will become South Branch life members.
Artifacts from the organization's history will be preserved, just as those from High Bridge and Clinton were. Items from each will be displayed in all four South Branch stations.
Could Fewer Demands Attract More Volunteers?
Tampier has been a Hampton volunteer for 42 years. As much as she and the rest of Hampton’s seven active volunteer EMTs love what they do, taking multiple shifts each week and holding leadership roles - – in addition to work, family, and other responsibilities – is sometimes difficult. The amount of work required from each volunteer may hinder recruiting others.
Tampier hopes that more people from Hampton, Glen Gardner, and Bethlehem Township will join her and the other current Hampton Emergency Squad Members as new South Branch Volunteers.
“The more of us who take part, the fewer hours each of us have to dedicate in order to have the truly remarkable, life-changing experience of serving our communities as a volunteer EMT,” she said.
Interested in becoming a South Branch volunteer? Visit www.sbes365.org