From The Teaneck News, Wednesday, October 17, 1979
Everything You Want to Know About
The Teaneck Volunteer Ambulance Corps
By Hy Grober
The membership of this extraordinary group of individuals is comprised of people from all walks of life, from practically every social and economic level. The diversity of occupations is limitless. On its present roster the corps' membership (to mention just a few) include a police sergeant, a diamond salesman, a fire lieutenant, a vice-president of a bank, a nurse, a manufacturer, an ordained rabbi, buyers, housewives, a mailman, a telephone company employee, a teacher, a security man, a personnel administrator at a major New York bank, a trucking executive, high school students, a medical secretary, a C.P.A., a designer of office interiors and numerous others. About 25 percent are females. There are two husband and wife teams...Ron and Irene Jaeger and Kevin and Carole Regan. Ron is a vice-president of a bank. He and Irene moved to Westwood more than a year ago but they are still fulltime working members of the Teaneck group even though they are now both members of the Westwood corps too. Then there is a father, son and daughter combination, although Dr. Donald Springer, a psychologist, is no longer active, however his son and daughter, Randy and Stacee are very much involved.
The Teaneck Volunteer Ambulance Corps is one of the busiest in North Jersey. During 1978 they logged 2517 calls. In the first 6 months of this year, there were 1457 calls, of which 1011 were emergencies. These include auto accidents, coronaries or difficulty in breathing, fractures and falls, second alarm fires and any sickness calls. Burn calls are made to take fire victims to the Hackensack Hospital Burn Center. In addition, mutual-aid trips are made to help other towns. Also, there were 264 transport calls made from the beginning of the year to the end of June. Contrary to popular belief, hospitals do not have ambulances (with the exception of Bergen Pines whose ambulance is used solely for the transportation of patients with communicable diseases).Therefore, the Teaneck ambulances make more than 500 transport calls per year. These involve taking patients from home to hospital or nursing-home and vice versa. Instructions or orders for moving a person from one place to another must be given by a doctor. In addition there are special calls which include taking patients to out-of-county or even out-of-state facilities which specialize in services for life threatening conditions not easily available in the local area.
Psychiatric patients are transported by the ambulance corps to Bergen Pines. In this regard, it is interesting to note that the corps is not empowered to forcibly transport a psychiatric patient to Bergen Pines unless the police deem it necessary. During this 6 month period 11,686 miles were clocked and 4690 man hours were expended on calls. This does not include time spent at headquarters awaiting the signal to move. 126 times, 2 ambulances (doubles, as they are called) were out at the same time and 10 times, triples (3 ambulances) were out at once on their errands of mercy. Each member makes from 150 to I 80 calls per year on average, although John Piepoli, the C.P.A. has over 2500 calls to his credit in only 7 years.
The corps owns 3 ambulances, each of which can handle all kinds of emergencies, including bad accidents and cardiac arrests. However, one of the rigs is a specialized sound-proofed one costing more than $40,000. This vehicle is equipped to transport 3 coronary cases at one time and includes a heart and lung resuscitator costing $3000. Being sound-proofed it naturally reduces the level of the traffic noise and the screeching siren heard by the patient; this is psychologically much better for the person being rushed to the hospital. The other 2 ambulances can each accommodate 4 patients, although if necessary as many as 11 people can be serviced. Included in each vehicle is a life-pack monitor which costs $5000, complete medical kits and other necessary items. And if you've wondered why the word "ambulance" looks like ECNALUBMA (with the E C L N B backward) when you are approaching it, it's so that it reads AMBULANCE as on look through your rear view mirror when all of a sudden you hear a wailing siren behind you asking you kindly to move over so that he ran get through.
In order to become a member of the ambulance corps, one must be at least sixteen and a half years of age. The applicant must supply 3 character references and pass a doctor's physical examination. Having satisfactorily done this, the applicant now begins his term as a probationary member. The probationary period can last from3 to 6 months and some times as long as 9 months. This time variation depends on how fast the trainee can absorb and pass one of 2 rigorous training programs. During the training period at least 50 ambulance calls are made. In the E.M.T. (Emergency Medical Technician) program the probationary member must spend 100 hours with instructors either at the Bergen Community College or at Passaic County Community College. John Sause, a member of the corps, is in charge of training. These 100 hours of training at the school are in addition to the time spent at headquarters and going out on ambulance calls. The New Jersey State 5 point training program is given at Bergen Tech and it includes courses in C.P.R. (cardiac pulmonary resuscitation), emergency child-birth, extrication, advanced Red Cross First Aid and defensive driving.
Defensive driving is very important since ambulances cannot legally break any traffic laws or run a red traffic signal, contrary to what many people may think. Ambulances involved in accidents while performing their normal duties are judged and handled similarly to any citizens' accidents. Screeching sirens and dervish-like revolving lights atop an ambulance are nothing more than a polite way of asking others to make some room for it.
Once a person has completed a training program, passed all tests and has been accepted as a member, he or she is required to put in a minimum of one 4 hour shift per week plus a full Sunday (from 7 A.M. to 7 P.M.) every 13 weeks. These are the minimum time requirements for all members, but there are many people who put in quite a bit of extra time of their own volition. In addition, there are more than 20 members who have volunteered to be available at all times during the day (people whose job or business is in town for instance) and those people who have volunteered to be available at any time during the night. These volunteers are equipped with special communications gear known as a Plectron, which is connected by radio directly to the police department. In an unusual emergency, or if 2 of the ambulances are out and more people are needed for another call, the police dispatcher "hits the Plectron button" which simultaneously alerts all of those corps members have this special device in their homes or if out, on their person. Many Corps members will tell you that if it's about 2:30 a.m. and miserable outside, or if they're about to sit down to a well-prepared hot meal or standing in the check-out line of a supermarket, that's the time the Plectron goes off. And quick as the proverbial flash everything stops except the corpsman who by now is on the way to the scene of the accident.
Unlike the image that many people had years ago, an ambulance corps is not a taxi service rushing through red lights, with sirens screaming, wildly careening from one side of the road to the other in order to get a patient to a hospital. The Teaneck Volunteer Ambulance Corps is a highly specialized, thoroughly and rigorously trained group of motivated and dedicated people who are professional in the true sense of the word. They are a most important extension of the hospital to which they are safely and carefully conducting a patient. Through H. E. A. R. (hospital emergency ambulance radio) they are constantly giving the hospital vital information of the patient's condition, so that upon arrival at its destination, doctors are ready to administer to the victim's needs. In a sense, it can be said that the corps' ambulance is a "mobile hospital" in which expert professionals are applying life-giving measures, making the patient comfortable and monitoring all vital signs. Before the arrival of the ambulance, doctors at the hospital know all pertinent facts regarding blood pressure, pulse beat, heart and lung conditions, sex and age of victims and specific injuries. There is no question that many people's lives have been saved before they reached the hospital. As Warren White, an officer in the Teaneck Police Department so aptly put it, "they are the finest, most dedicated professionals I have ever met, and when I'm at an accident, there's nothing I'd rather see than the lights of that ambulance. That's when I know that somehow everything will be O.K.". This type of expertise does not come easily. In order to maintain this high degree of competence, every member of the corps must be re-certified every 3 years. This is done by again taking a 40 hour E.M.T. course involving similar training to the 100 hour course taken before being admitted to the corps.
Many people are constantly amazed at how fast an ambulance is at the scene after an accident on the highway or a heart attack in a house. When confronted with an emergency, people will first of all call the police department. Their dispatcher immediately sends a squad car to the scene, and at the same time calls the ambulance corps on its "black phone" which is kept open at all times. While the person on the phone with the police is getting the information as to location, type of accident or case.3 to 5 members under the direction of a crew chief are grabbing their coveralls and scurrying into the ambulance. From its headquarters on Windsor Rd. just north of Cedar Lane, the corps prides itself on the fact that it can reach the farthest point in town in under 4minutes.Once at the scene, a "first-in-member" rushes into the house, or if an accident, to the victims, in order to assess the situation. In this way it can immediately be ascertained what equipment is needed. For instance, in the case of a heart attack, a resuscitator; in an auto accident, splints, bandages, etc. Word is now passed on the others to bring all the requirements. Meanwhile, the "first-in-member" is busy taking "vitals" (blood pressure, pulse rate and respiratory signs.) Ministering to the needs of the most seriously injured first, (a principle known as triage) is seen to by the "first-in-member" who must assess and act fast so that lives can be saved. Broken bones are sprinted and bandaged. In case of whiplash, or internal injuries, a backboard is utilized so that the victim is immobilized. It is important, in moving a person in such a condition, that he or she be moved "as one piece" so that no further damage is inflicted during the ride to the hospital. Through H.E.AR. the corpsman is apprising the hospital of all vital information regarding the victims they will soon be receiving. In the case of a heart patient who is being made ready to be moved from his home, his EKG (electrocardiograph) can be transmitted to the hospital by telephone. In a situation that is not a life or death one, the patient or family can choose the hospital to which the patient wants to be taken. If the patient's personal physician is associated prefers to be conveyed there.
Their "cargo" having safely been delivered, the crew now returns to headquarters amidst a pervasive gloom, only occasionally broken by an irrelevant remark to break the tension and ease the pent-up emotions. For though these admirable individuals have by experience become inured to nearly every kind of gory scene, seemingly acting like automations when lives are at stake, once they have done what ever possible for the victims they immediately revert to the compassionate human being that they are. To become emotional when steadfast nerves are required or not to think and act quickly is detrimental to the well-being of the patient. So to be impersonal, going about their jobs efficiently, with dispatch and professionalism, is paramount for the welfare of the one whose life is at stake. But once the job is over, the inherent emotional make-up of each crew member comes to the surface. Depending on the kind of a case it has been reactions vary accordingly. Most deeply felt are situations involving children. Suicides or auto accidents culminating in someone's death or serious injuries affect every one the most. Some cry softly by themselves; others burst into a few seconds of swearing at no one in particular, repeatedly asking, "why, why did it have to happen?"; at times some silly things will be voiced, evoking here and there a perverse laughter or nervous tittering. It is necessary that tensions and gloom be dispelled as much as possible, for who knows, any time now there maybe another serious call to action. All serious situations are devastating experiences, for a corpsman personalizes and associates the victims with relatives, friends, parents, brothers and sisters. Many of these experiences are never easily forgotten, being seared into the memory and consciousness of the corpsman involved to such a degree that in many instances he or she will refuse to discuss it for years after. Of course, every call is not tragic. There are "false alarms" where someone has been reported injured or suffered a heart attack which turns out to be not serious at all. The "Victim" can walk away because he is not seriously injured, or the "heart attack" turns out to be nothing more than seems pains caused by indigestion. These experiences lead to a spate of raucous banter among the crew members on the way back to headquarters ... another example of letting off steam and displaying their relief that the call was not as serious as had been anticipated. Then there is the call which is truly a joyful one. When a maternity call comes in, it immediately evokes a joyful outburst. Everyone present wants to be part of the crew, and should the newborn infant first sees the light of day or night in the ambulance, (as has already happened) before it reaches the hospital, pandemonium breaks loose. Back-slapping, embracing, shouting good wishes to all becomes the order of the moment. Each crew member has just become a mother or a father.