THE HISTORY OF EDISON FIRST AID SQUAD No. 2

When the members of the Raritan Engine Company #1 Volunteer Fire Department in the southern portion of Edison Township, then known as Raritan Township, learned that an out-of-town ambulance company refused to transport a child to a hospital because the father was unable to pay the required $20.00 fee, they met and formed what is now the Edison First Aid and Rescue Squad No. 1, In 1935.

Almost immediately, it became apparent that it took far too long for them to effectively respond to emergencies in the northern part of the community. Some of the members of the Menlo Park Volunteer Fire Department, in that area of the township, recognized the need for an emergency service to rapidly respond to the emergencies in their district. In 1936, they formed what is now the Edison First Aid Squad No. 2. The founders of the squad prevailed upon Mr. Art Latham, a Certified Red Cross Instructor, to conduct classes in first aid at the Menlo Park Firehouse.

These volunteers held bingo parties and dances, raising enough money to purchase their first ambulance, a converted 1927 Studebaker hearse from Squad No. l. This purchase was made in late 1936.

The new ambulance was housed in the second home of the Menlo Park Volunteer Fire Department on Monmouth Avenue. between Frederick and Christie Street. This structure was a bungalow that was purchased from Mrs. Minnie Clarkson for the sum of $500.00 to serve as the new home of the fire company. The fire company was originally located in Thomas A. Edison's machine shop on Christie Street.

Nicholas Dudas, a founding member of Edison First Aid Squad No. 2, explains that the original Studebaker ambulance, an imposing "hawknosed" vehicle, was only the first of many second-hand pieces of apparatus that they had to "make do" with. "It was a little top-heavy, but it did the job," Dudas said. "It used to plow across the snow through Potter's Crossing, the present Inman-Grove Section."

The ten founding members of The Edison First Aid Squad No. 2 are:

   
  • Thomas Swales
  • Kenneth Shepar
  • Joseph Ehringer
  • Nicholas Dudas
  • Alfred Schnebbe
  • John Hartman
  • Albert Christofferson
  • Rudolph Peins
  • Andrew Dudas
  • Stewart Straka



Thomas Swales later became Mayor, Andrew Dudas became Menlo Park Postmaster. Nick Dudas became an elected Fire Commissioner and Steve Straka became the Township's Superintendent of Sanitation.

In 1940 and 1941, The Menlo Park Volunteer Fire Company built a new firehouse on Route 27-Lincoln Highway. Earlier, in 1938, The Menlo Park Volunteer Fire Company surveyed its needs for new and larger quarters and decided that a new firehouse had to be built. The Fire Company appealed to the Board of Fire Commissioners to find a ways and means of erecting a new structure. The new building was dedicated an April 12th, 1941. Squad 2 relocated to the new firehouse and remained there until 1951. A lack of adequate space there eventually forced the Squad to move to its third location, also on Route 27. The move was made possible by the Commissioners of Fire District Number Two who made the adjacent property available to Squad 2. This building was dedicated on August 18th, 1951, a one-car garage. When the Squad held meetings, the ambulance was pulled out of the bay and parked on the apron and meetings were held in the bay.
New HQ on Rt. 27


EARLY VEHICLE FLEET
Edison First Aid Squad No. 2 has owned 24 emergency vehicles. From 1927 through 1954, the Squad relied on used vehicles. Its first ambulance was a converted 1927 Studebaker hearse. In 1941, the Squad purchased a 1937 La Salle and in 1951, a 1939 Buick. A proud moment for Squad 2 came in 1954 when it took delivery of its first new ambulance, a 1954 Cadillac. 1965 saw the purchase of a $16,000 Cadillac. The 1965 Cadillac was retained when the Squad's first modular ambulance was purchased in 1970. The Squad now boasted two vehicles. Another modular was purchased in 1971, replacing the 1965 Cadillac. In 1972, an Oldsmobile limousine-style ambulance was put into service and the '70 modular was converted into the first rescue vehicle. Reflecting the rapid growth of the area and Edison in general, a third rig was put into service in 1973, a 1973 Oldsmobile limo. 1978 and 1979 saw the purchase of one modular and two van-type rigs. In 1981, three vans were purchased. A mini-modular ambulance was added to the fleet in 1984 and 1986 brought the addition of "A-10" Braun ERV. A-10 was known to be one of the finest ambulances in service in the region.

1954 Cadillac Ambulance


During the 1970's, in order to keep the membership's training level above-average, five members of Squad 2, Bob Kallio, Sr., Mike Mermelstein, Paul Stein, Gene Berta, Sr. and George Taylor, Jr., enrolled in the first Extrication Instructors Course held within the 14th District. Following the completion of training, they, in turn, instructed the entire Squad in proper extrication techniques. A rescue rig was planned to fill the increasing emergency extrication needs in the service area. In 1973, the Squad's 1970 Ford ambulance was re-fitted and recommissioned as a rescue vehicle. This vehicle carried very basic rescue and extrication equipment. The rescue gear consisted of pry-bars, tool boxes, portapowers and a home made "can-opener." At the time, this vehicle did an adequate job of handling the rescue work. The Squad agreed that more than just adequate service should be provided. A new rescue rig would be required.

Within the following three years, specifications for a new vehicle were prepared and funds were set aside for the purchase of the new rescue rig. In mid 1976, the Squad took delivery of the Dodge Ranger Rescue truck"R-2." Purchase price for R-2 was $24,600. While the truck was on order, all new extrication equipment was purchased and training commenced. When the vehicle was put into service, it contained a full compliment state-of-the-art rescue equipment, including come-along, hydraulic rescue tools, an electric front bumper-mounted winch and four wheel drive power. It was recognized as one of the best-equipped rescue rigs in the area, noted for its innovative, state-of-the-art lighting system, with 7,500 watts of lighting, including a three 1500 watt head tower, six "circle-D" floods, and a 21 kW PTO generator.
1976 Dodge

R-2 had not been in service for more than two months when it was requested at an emergency outside of our normal service area to do rescue work at the scene of a head-on motor vehicle accident. lt was there, also, that the Jaws of Life was used for the first time. The Squad 2 Rescue Team used the Jaws to lift the dashboard of the wrecked vehicle off the patient's legs. lt was put to use to remove the steering wheel from the windshield opening. Since then, the rig has performed hundreds of rescues using all the equipment carried on R-2. The rig was constantly brought up-to-date to serve the needs of the residents and industries in the service area. Included in R-2's arsenal of rescue equipment were two rescue air bags capable of lifting 20 tons each; "HAZ-MAT" (Hazardous Materials) suits; Scott Air-Packs equipped with positive-pressure regulators; over 1,050 feet of electrical lines and Stokes baskets with lifting hardware. The large variety of equipment is constantly changed and improved with developments in rescue techniques. It was of paramount concern that Squad 2's equipment and level of expertise be maintained in the state-of-the-art.


WOMEN IN SERVICE
Since the early 1950's, women have played a substantial and vital role in Squadactivities. As early as 1964, Squad 2 boasted of a female Captain, Lois Jogan.Female township residents have, by their particpation in Squad activities insuredthat the "rigs would roll." Today,fully one third of our membership is comprised of females.
Women in EMS



THE DISCO YEARS
Historic incidents in which Edison First Aid Squad No. 2 responded and rendered emergency medical services and rescue services abound. In January, 1971, a Piper Cub aircraft collided with a Boeing 727 aircraft in mid-air near Jean Place in the Oak Tree section of Squad 2's service area, Although the student pilot and Instructor of the smaller aircraft did not survive, the 727 landed safely at Newark International Airport.

Squad 2 assisted in the rescue, treatment and transfer of the injured persons resulting from a commuter train colliding with a parked work train. One fatality was reported. Two dozen patients were transported via ambulanue to area hospitals along with two bus loads of ambulatory wounded.

In January, 1975, Life Member Robert Kallio was honored by many local and state organizations for saving the life of a Linden, N.J. Police Officer. Bob heard a call for help while at his business and rushed to the scene. He administered CPR, which at that time was considered a new technique, and maintained breathing and circulation until the patient was linked to life-saving equipment at Rahway Hospital's Emergency Room.

The next month, Squad member Ron Curto was credited with life-saving actions in the rescue of an eight-year-old boy. While two others rescued the boy's comloanion, Ron pulled the boy from the icy waters of Roosevelt Park Lake. Together, all three worked on the unconscious boy, applying pressure to his back until he regained consciousness.

Patient Transport

In October 1974, Squad 2's competition team took first place in the State Competition in Atlantic City. Members of the team simulated first aid problems, competing against forty other teams. Considering the fact that their team had only been in existence for four years, and prior to this occasion had only achieved Third Place, their four First Place trophies were in deed an achievement. But some of the regular members of the Team were unable to compete in the State Competition. At the last minute two members were pulled in to compete with the Team. Squad 2's teams usually have ample practice time, but in this case there was none. Nevertheless, Squad 2 took all three First Place trophies!

Ray Talarico, past Captain and Life Member, recalls that the only difference between the team exercises and "real life" is the yelling. In competition, entrants are required to verbalize all the actions taken. In reality-we just do it!


COMMUNICATIONS..."MR. WATSON, I NEED YOU"
Dispatching procedures have changed and improved over their 6O year history. Over the past twenty years, the dispatching system in Edison Township has greatly improved. In the early 1960's, the procedures were very dated. An alarm phone was established at EM's Delicatessen, which was part of Menlo Park Esso-now Menlo Park Motors, located across from then Squad 2 Headquarters. Edison Police Headquarters would notify the attendant at the Deli who would run across the street and activate the siren at the Menlo Park firehouse, located next door to the Squad, Police Headquarters would also contact Squad members in the immediate vicinity of the Squad building by phone.

All radio transmissions were made over the police frequency. In 1973, a new radio frequency for ambulances was established. Thanks to modern technology and the relocation of Police Headquarters to the new Edison Township Municipal complex in 1980, pagers were now used to alert members to emergency situations. All departments-Fire, Police and First Aid-were dispatched from the same modern communications center The Squad was dispatched through the Fire Department known as "Edison Fire Central."


GROWTH AND EXPANSION - FROM "SHELTER" TO MODERN EMERGENCY STATION
The history of the construction of Squad 2's headquarters on Route 27 reflects a spirit of dedication and volunteerism which runs throughout its proud history. In November, 1961 the Squad had 18 members. An addition to the one bay garage that the Squad had called home since 1951 was planned. Original plans for the Squad house basement were modified to provide for a "Fallout Shelter." Specifications were submitted to the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization. Architect Charles B. Carman of Metuchen designed a 23 by 54 foot shelter and ground was broken on November 13th, 1961. Days later, November 30th, excavation began on the addition. The generosity of many businesses and individuals made construction possible. Contractor Louis Ritthaler of Woodbridge Avenue donated excavation services. Best Block of Edison donated the cinder block; Sayre-Fisher Sand donated the sand; Sebolt Concrete donated the concrete and Williard Dunham, a township benefactor, also made significant contributions.

Rt. 27 HeadquartersPresent at the dedication were:

 
  • Lois Jogan (Captain)
  • Michael Arace
  • Arlene Curto
  • Daniel Curto
  • Raymond Dixon (President)
  • Matthew Curto
  • William Jogan
  • Albert Kruszerski
  • Richard Grumphect
  • Stanley Kebel
  • Stanley Kooyenga
  • Pierson Thorp
  • Joseph Marinelli
  • Malcolm Thorne
  • James Pitman

There were also twenty-two members of the Squad Auxillary-

Other attempts were made to relocate or enlarge their Headquarters over the years. When plans were being drawn up for the John F. Kennedy Community Hospital-now John F. Kennedy Medical Center- provisions for a four-bay structure attached to the hospital were included. The squad feared a loss of autonomy under such a plan and the idea was rejected.

A second site was proposed on OakTree Road across from the Sunnyside Delicatessen. Neighbors objected to sirens and increased activity in the area and this site, too, was rejected. Later, a site at the intersection of Grove Avenue and Oak Tree Road was proposed. No success there, either. The property was deemed too valuable and too expensive for development by the Squad.

The intersection of Inman Avenue and Grove Avenue was proposed. This site was rejected because the site was located too far north in the Squad's service area to be effective. A more central location was researched.

New Dover Rd. Headquarters Groundbreaking

Groundbreaking, April 13, 1986. (L-R: Trustee Michael Petercsak, Trustee William Reinholtz, Mayor Anthony M. Yelensics, President Paul George, Captain George Taylor)

"On the Road to New Dover..."Mention was made in 1984 of establishing a fourth first aid squad to service the ever-growing community. Concerned citizens asked that the suggestion be seriously considered. Squad 2 researched the feasibility of a Squad 2 "Sub-station" in that area. The idea was rejected mainly on the grounds of complex logistics. Mayor Anthony M. Yelencsics was consulted by members of Squad 2 regarding their concerns. Council members George Asprocolas, George Spadoro and Henry Cackowski formed a committee to research the problem. Funds were appropriated to retain the services of an architect and construct a larger facility more centrally located to the population center of their service area.

On October 3rd, 1985 the design process began. Squad 2 Building Committee members met with Lewis Silverstien and Frank Barbosa, of Brown and Matthews Architects. The design of a complex emergency services facility became a time consuming project. Plans for the new Headquarters Building were finalized in April, 1986.

A gala groundbreaking ceremony was held on an overcast day on Sunday, April 13th, 1986 complete with speeches, media coverage and a champagne toast. Construction began July 25th, 1986 and was scheduled for completion and occupancy January 25th, 1987.

1986 Squad members

Groundbreaking, April 1986

Due to contruction delays and other problems, the new station was not completed until the summer of 1987. During construction, squad members received a call for an "unconcious/unresponsive" at 848 New Dover Road. The crew quickly realized this was the site of the new station! On arrival, one of the contruction workers had suffered a heart attack - becomming the first "call" of the new building. Unfortunately, he passed away, but was remembered in a service when the building was completed. While some feared it was an bad omen, members felt it was a sign of the sacrifice people make for the good of the community. Some say the "spirit" still visits the night crews on occasion...

In September, on the eve of the Squad's 51st anniversary, moving was completed and Squad 2 took up residence at it's present station on New Dover Road. While the road was long and hard, all the members agree it was well worth the wait.


THE RESCUE SQUAD TODAY
In the ten years since the move to the squad's present headquarters, Edison #2has continued to grow and expand, not only maintaining a commitment of qualityservice to the citizens of Edison, but advancing into the latest technologiesof emergency medicine. The membership includes over fifty regular and specialmembers, and boasts a growing cadet corps which will one day lead the service.Numerous other individuals share their talents as well, in the areas of management,teaching, community relations, and fundraising.

The squad's fleet has seen major improvements as well. All three ambulances were upgraded to Braun ERVs, complete with a host of the latest medical and rescue equipment. The prode of the fleet is the new and improved RESCUE/MCRU 2, replacing the aging '72 Dodge rescue truck. Delivered in December of 1993, RESCUE 2 brought with it a new age of rescue technology, along with the capabilities of self-contained mass casualty management, unique in Middlesex County. Built by RESCUE ONE of PL Custom Body in Manasquan, N.J., the 14' box sits on a Ford F700 diesel chassis and includes a 27 kW auto PTO generator. Hydraulic equipment includes Hurst 32B and JL-27 "Jaws of Life" spreaders, Maverick omni-tool, O-blade cutter, and 12", 19" and 28" rams. There is over 11,000 watts of lighting, and enough backboards, oxygen, and medical supplies to treat up to fifty (50) patients at a large incident. Already RESCUE 2 has been put to the test, including numerous HazMat and structure fire incidents, including the six-alarm Jackson Avenue warehouse fire, and the infamous Durham Woods Gas Pipeline Explosion.

Communications improved also, with the delivery of a new radio system for all of Edison EMS in 1992. The system included a 3-point repeater station on the UHF-T band, 3 base stations, 12 mobile radios, 25 handhelds, and over 150 pagers. Reception range was dramatically increased from New York City down to Burlington County, NJ, and the band was clear from other services interfering. Presently, the system utilizes two channels, one for dispatch and one for drills and local operations, along with the old VHF system for backup.

During the early years all that was needed to join a first aid squad was some basic bandaging skills and a big heart. The NJSFAC improved on this in the 1960's and 70's with CPR training and what was known as "Five Point Certification". This program, later expanded to "Eight Points" included training in standard and advanced first aid, emergency childbirth, oxygen therapy, and vehicle extrication. Immediately after the passage of the NJ Highway Safety Act of 1987, Squad 2 made sure all of it's senior membership were trained in the DOT standard Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) program. This trend continued into 1993 when Squad 2 became the first squad in central Middlesex County to obtain certification as EMT-Defibrillator members (EMT-D). This new device, called a Semi-Automatic External Defibrillator (SAED), has a computer that reads an unconcious patient's heart rhythm and determines if an electrical stimulating shock (defib) is needed. The EMT then activates the device and a lifesaving shock to "reset" the heart is delivered. This type of care, along with CPR and advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) by paramedics, substantially increases the survival rate of heart attck victims.

Squad members today are trained in a variety of specialties, including EMT-D, CPR, trauma care, incident management, Hazardous Materials Operations, advanced vehicle rescue, medical helicopter evacuation, and mass casualty management. Each member undergoes an initial 110-hour training program, and attends an average of 50 hours of additional training yearly. They are prepared for a wide array of emergency problems, and are well integrated with other agencies when additional resources are needed.

Recent incidents
Historic and dramatic emergencies have not declined one bit over the squad's last ten years of operation. The MCRU team was pressed into service a number of times, including separate van and bus accidents along the Thornall Rd. / Parsonage Bridge corridor involving dozens of patients. In 1993, a 27-car pileup on Interstate 287 brought agencies from throughout the eastern Middlesex county region. And central New Jersey, specifically So. Plainfield and Carteret Boroughs have become "Haz Mat Alley", requiring tema members to provide medical monitoring and rehab services regularly. One such incident in Edison's Raritan Center Industrial Park in 1995 lasted over 12 hours and involved over 30 patients.

The Jackson Avenue warehouse inferno was a 3-day, multi-alarm structure fire with numerous patients that had Squad 2 assisting Clara Barton FAS, in the Township's eastern section, with triage and rehab throughout the day and night. A number of firefighters were injured fighting that mighty blaze, and the volunteers made sure that no one in need was left without help.

Speaking of standbys, the terrible winter of '96 brought blizzard conditions to the Northeast, rendering transportation all but impossible and leaving residents without power of heat. Squad 2 manned their station 'round the clock for 4 days, and engaged in several rescues, including a siezure victim in an apartment complex whose streets were made impassable by abandoned cars. Rescue 2 personnel fashoined a "dog-sled" out of their Stokes Rescue Sled and pulled the victim nearly a mile to the ambulance on foot. The EMS crews did a lot of snow walking because most streets were covered with up to 4 feet of snow. The rescue vehicles were also used to assist JFK hospital staff back and forth from home.

Although weather emergencies such as that storm are not common in New Jersey, when storms do hit, you can expect a lot of trouble. Hurricane Floyd (1999) was such a storm, not so much for damaging winds which blasted the southeast US, but for the torrential rains which caused some of the worst flooding in NJ history. Squad 2 manned all vehicles for 24 hours that day, responding to several residences with residents trapped by rising waters and assisting Edison Fire with residential safety checks. Squad 2 also responded to Franklin-Somerset, NJ to assist in the evacuation of a nursing home during the storm, and crews contributed 2 days of EMS care in Bound Brook, hardest hit by the storm, manning evacuation shelters and during relocation of residents from their flooded homes. All personnel were volunteer and committed their time even while Edison was under a water emergency from the damaged Elizabethtown Water Co. pumping station. Crews assisted in the distribution of water rations to residents and provided 5 days of 'round the clock EMS protection.

Undoubtedly the most spectacular event in the past several years was the Durham Woods Apt. Gas Pipeline Disaster. When the explosion first occured, it took nearly 15 minutes just to locate the source, as the flames and light was so intense that the truw distance to the source could not be determined. Everything from a gas tanker on the NJ Turnpike to the Mobil Petrochemical Plant was thought to be the source. Never before has such a response of emergency workers, volunteers, press, government officials, and the public converge at a scene in all of Middlesex Co. history. The incident lasted 96 hours, and included over 40 fire departments, 30 rescue squads, and numerous other local, state, and federal agencies. Squad 2 stayed the duration, initially setting up and maintaining a second triage and treatment site, and then establishing a treatment/rehab area inside the blast zone during the cleanup and incestigation, as well as lighting and security at night. All members put in at least 24 hours of work, with many missing work and school to stay 3 or 4 days. It will be an event not soon forgotten.

Station and Programs

Today's rescue squad is a far cry from the one room buildings and relatively simple daily routine. Squad 2's station boasts a modern six-bay facility, 8-person crew dormitory, training room, Line and Executive offices, day room, alarm room, and meeting/banquet hall. The offices, dorm, training, day room, and alarm room are equipped with multi-line telephones/intercoms, and emergency "hotlines" to dispatch. New added was the "ZETRONTM" alerting system, complete with station status and call printout subsystems.

At the heart of Squad 2's operations is a multi-station computer network system, serving the two offices, alarm and training room. Based on Apple Macintosh systems, the LAN serves incident reporting, statistic and QC management, interactive training, and internet access to provide the latest information on training programs and emergency resource information. The computers are available for use by the entire membership, serving the needs of those in business and school alike. Members can catch up on work while being in the station available for calls.

Although responding to over 2,000 calls a year keeps our 40+ members extremely busy, a number of other ongoing programs at the squad continue to strengthen the organization. The Recruit Preceptor program puts new members through a 14-station basic training course, including modules from the first responder and EMT programs, along with special in-house subjects such as communications, report writing, ambulance safety, and large scale operations. Since its inception in 1992, nearly all recruits continuing on for the NJ EMT certification have passed the first time through.

The rescue/MCRU program continues to evolve by way of very dedicated leadership. In additional to routine training both in the classroom and hands-on, a number of outside instructors are brought in to teach the latest concepts in rescue design and engineering. Though the primary rescue function is heavy vehicle extrication, the squad has taken steps to expand into basic rope, trench, and industrial rescue as support for Edison Fire Department's Technical Rescue unit.Finally, the squad is building a strong Cadet program for young members. These 16 to 18 year olds, recruited from No. Edison's two high schools, get similar training to senior members, but are encouraged to seek their own projects through guidance by the Line Office and develop leadership skills early. The program has been successful in establishing a "feeding group" that keeps the squad supplied with fresh EMTs.

The future

And what about the future of Squad 2? Like anything else, the squad must constantly adapt to the changing times. As Edison's population continues to grow past 100,000 new ideas for maintaining coverage are being sought. One important program currently in use is the Daytime Staffing Assistance Program (DSAP) during the critical daytime hours, when most volunteers are at work. With the help of Edison Township governement, this program will ensure coverage during the morning hours, without overtaxing the fire department rescue unit or our mutual aid companies.

The Mass Casualty team will also move forward, continuing to expand its capabilties and promote them through public speaking events and drill participation. Plans include the acquisition of a dedicated MCRU vehicle, along with a command/first response unit.

As for volunteers...considering the current environment of healthcare, rising costs, and advancing techniques and technologies, it seems that the need for volunteers is greater than ever. Citizens deserve the best in emergency healthcare, and volunteers are the best way to meet those immediate needs without burdening the pocketbooks of our patients.

Many thanks to Lois Fitzpatrick, for her assistance in the compliation of Edison #2's history