First Aid Unit’s Plea for Municipal Funds To Go Before Governing Bodies Wednesday

Town Topics
27 June 1979

First Aid Unit’s Plea for Municipal Funds To Go Before Governing Bodies Wednesday

A special joint meeting of Borough Council and Township Committee will be convened this Wednesday night at 9 in Borough Hall to discuss the final report of the Joint Committee of the First Aid and Rescue Squad.

The Joint Committee has unanimously recommended that the municipalities provide approximately $32,000 to cover the salaries of a daytime paramedic and an emergency technician (EMT), plus benefits and funding for someone to cover when one or both of these individuals is sick or on vacation. The committee also recommends that a Joint Public Safety Commission be formed, made up of representatives from the fire companies, police departments, the First Aid and Rescue Squad, Princeton Medical Center and the governing bodies.

It has been more than a year since Squad Captain Edwin J. Obert Jr. first approached Councilman Richard Woodbridge as a member of the Borough Public Safety Committee to alert him that the Squad, organized 40 years ago to come to the aid of people in emergencies, was itself in need of help. The Joint Committee was then formed, consisting of Mr. Woodbridge and Kate Litvak from Township Committee as co- chairmen; Bonnie Wagner and Pat Cherry as representatives from the Borough and Township; Mr. Obert and Squad President Mark Freda representing the Squad, and, as of April, John Kauffman and Dr. Richard Barach representing the Medical Center.

Progress Noted. A series of eight public meetings has been held to discuss problems ranging from daytime manpower, dispatching and finances, to gasoline availability and snow removal. Progress was made on some matters. The Township has agreed to do dispatching for a nine-month trial period from its Police Department-the Squad and the Township both use CB equipment, the Borough does not.

The Township has also volunteered to plow the snow from the apron in front of the Squad garage on Harrison Street so that rescue vehicles can leave quickly in winter. The Borough Police has agreed to pay for its hot line to the Squad house on a 12-month trial basis. The Township has historically paid for its hot line.

A finance advisory committee under the chairmanship of Ralph “Doc” Lenhart and William L. Wilson has been formed to organize a special gifts campaign to raise money for a new ambulance and to replace the chassis of the lifemobile. Mr. Obert is optimistic that the community will continue to support the Squad’s operating expenses and its capital needs on a voluntary basis without resorting to tax dollars.

The report notes, however, that all the neighboring squads receive contributions from their municipalities in amounts ranging from $5,000 to $20,000 per year. If the capital fund drive is not successful, it states, the Squad will have demonstrated to the municipalities that it can no longer rely totally on private funds and will need assistance, perhaps in the form of the purchase of capital equipment, “or face the prospect of having drastically curtailed daytime services from the Squad or no service at all.”

Inadequate Response. Mr. Obert went to Mr. Woodbridge initially because as captain he was disturbed that during 1978 the Squad was not able to respond to 12 daytime calls and had to request assistance from neighboring squads. This year, there have been four “incidents” since June 13 in which there has been what Mr. Obert calls “a poor response or no response.”

A request from a doctor to go to the aid of a man who had fallen off a ladder was answered by the Kingston Squad because no Princeton Squad member responded when the “tones” were put out by the Township police dispatcher. Another call involved a child on a bicycle injured in a collision with a car. One Squad member went to the Squad house and when no one else responded, went out on the call alone, against customary procedure, arriving 15 minutes after the incident. Fortunately, says Mr. Obert, it turned out not to be a serious accident. At 4:50 on a recent weekday afternoon, a nine-months pregnant woman was pinned in an automobile after an accident at Cleveland Lane and Library Place. By the time Squad member Mark Freda left his job at the University and made his way to Harrison Street, Charlie Gentillan from the Shopping Center TV repair was already sitting in the Lifemobile waiting for someone else to show up. When they reached the scene of the accident, it became clear that the extraction equipment in the rescue truck was going to be necessary.

One man stayed with the victim while the other rode back in the police car-again through thickening rush hour traffic-to the Squad house to , get the rescue truck. Enroute, they passed the truck driven by still another Squad member who had learned of the situation and had gone to get it. “It was a comedy of errors,” lamented Mr. Obert, “and it took more than a half hour to get all the equipment needed to the scene.”

In the Rachael Bull tragedy, former Squad Captain Dewitt Boice, trained in cardiopulmonary resuscitation, happened to be at Township Police when the call came and, with the police, was at the Bull house in 90 seconds. The Squad was able to respond with a paramedic and full advanced life support system within eight minutes. This is considered a good response, Mr. Obert said, but he thinks it could be cut in half if a paid paramedic was on duty at the Squad house during working hours.

Gasoline Availability. Another matter very much on Mr. Obert’s mind is a reliable, 24-hour a day, in-town source of gasoline. In May, 1977, the Squad asked the Township if it could purchase gas from its pump at cost and was refused. This past April Mr. Woodbridge, at the suggestion of the Joint Committee, asked the Borough for gas, either free or at cost, and was refused.

There are state regulations that prohibit a municipality from selling gasoline to a non-municipal agency. Moreover, the Borough said it had just received notification from its supplier that it would be limited to 95 percent of its allocation the previous year.

Department of Energy has just issued a statement saying that all police, fire and emergency vehicles will be allowed 100 percent of their needs. Mr. Obert also thinks that the fact that the Squad has to certify itself annually to the municipality and, if the recommendation for funding of daytime personnel is approved, may be receiving municipal funds, should remove the Squad from the “non-municipal agency” category and make it possible to purchase gas at either the Borough or Township pump at cost.

Mr. Obert feels that this problem, along with the pervasive one of daytime coverage, will depend on pressure from the public.

Clearly he and the Squad want to be able to respond in a manner keeping with the extensive training they have received and the sophisticated equipment they possess.

-Barbara L. Johnson

Photo Caption:

PAID DAY-TIME COVERAGE ASKED: First Aid and Rescue Squad members, shown here in a drill using their advanced life-support system, are seeking funds from Princeton’s two municipalities to meet the cost of a day-time paramedic and technician to improve response to calls during working hours.

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