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Echo Leader - May 20, 1999

First Aid Squad calls for volunteers
By Joe Lugara, Staff Writer

Imagine falling ill, or being in an accident, and no one is around to answer your emergency call.

The Springfield First Aid Squad, now in its 50th year, held an open house last week to boost their volunteer membership. Once consisting of a staff of over 60, the squad now covers the township's 14,000 residents with 25 volunteers. As the primary medical service program in Springfield, the squad provides free care to the township's residents seven days a week, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The squad's dedication and efficiency is such that their efforts are seldom recognized by the public, except by those who have received their services. The Fire Department's personnel are trained in CPR and basic first aid, but the First Aid Squad is the official health caretaker in an emergency situation. "People tend to take us for granted," Liz Fritzen, the squad's captain, said. "They think we're paid. We're not. We're volunteers. We have a dedicated group here, sometimes getting out of bed at 3:30 a.m. and giving up days on their weekends."

Volunteers receive free Emergency Medical Technician training, along with training on a defibrillator. The initial defibrillator course takes eight hours and is given over two consecutive nights. Defibrillator technicians are recertified every year. Uniforms, pagers and training are all provided free of charge. "All we need is a time contribution," Fritzen said.

Donations also play a significant role in the squad's efforts. Two fund drives a year provide vital donations from local residents and businesses, resulting in the numerous pieces of state-of-the-art equipment, oxygen, bandages and other items necessary for the squad to function on a daily basis. Donations also have helped the squad purchase two new ambulances, which cost $110,000 each. "It took us eight years to replace the current ambulance, and 10 years to replace the one before that," Fritzen said.

Fritzen points out that potential volunteers can spend time with the unit to see if the work suits them. Interested parties are invited to ride with the squad as observers for as long as one month. The hours are flexible and, as Fritzen points out, the pager makes it unnecessary for squad members to remain in the building. Volunteers put in 12 hours a week, and one Saturday or Sunday a month. The recent open house brought in seven new volunteers, though more are needed.

"Not many first aid squads in this area can say they've been in business 50 years," Fritzen said. "We can. But if we're going to continue, we're going to need members."

To volunteer for the Springfield First Aid Squad, call (973) 376-0400.