Volunteerism across the country is dwindling in numbers and its effects are being felt in Manchester like never before. On average, Manchester Township has eight hundred to a thousand first aid calls per month. As previously discussed, due to the decline in membership, our volunteer First Aid Squads can no longer meet the high demand. Unfortunately, in recent months, despite their best efforts, our volunteers coverage has been sporadic.
In January alone, there were ten consecutive days with only a few calls answered by Manchester First Aid Squad and five consecutive days where they did not have a crew at all. Please note, when a call for first aid is made, the call goes to the County dispatchers and the protocol is to dispatch our volunteer first aid squads first. If the volunteer squads are not able to respond, the County dispatchers are tasked to contact the back-up service provider, Quality Medical Transport. Obviously, the multiple calls delay the response time, which delays the patient’s arrival to the hospital.
Due to the significant decline in recent coverage, the Manchester Township Council and I have taken immediate action and de-authorized the Manchester First Aid Squad from providing first aid services in Manchester Township. It was our hope to have a transition period when the Township’s paid EMS service was on-line. Unfortunately, we could not wait. We needed to take this action to ensure our residents on the East side of town are afforded the fastest and most efficient response times. This decision also alleviates Manchester First Aid from the obligation to provide coverage, as the majority of their members are from out of town and travel to Manchester.
Until the Township paid EMS service is operational, Quality Medical Transport will be the primary responding service. To ensure coverage, Chief Lisa Parker has entered into a mutual aid agreement with Toms River to provide back-up service.
Please note, Whiting First Aid will continue to provide coverage on the West side of town. In the event they are not able to cover a call, Quality Medical Transport will cover the call.
Importantly, we anticipate the Township’s paid EMS service to be operational March 1, 2020. In the words of Police Chief Lisa Parker, “Manchester needs 24/7 coverage with multiple ambulances ready to respond with two certified EMT’s on the rigs, our residents deserve it.”
Recently, Chief Parker held testing for the EMT positions with over 70 applicants. The testing consisted of a written portion, practical portion and physical portion. The highest scoring applicants advanced to the interview process which was completed, for the most part, last week. We are now in the process of completing background checks for potential hires. Once the background process is completed, our new hires will undergo a short training period on the Township’s required practices and protocols. At that point, we will be ready to roll. It is our intent to utilize the township-owned building, previously occupied by the Manchester First Aid Squad. Please note, this property has always been deed-restricted requiring the property to be used for township emergency services. Utilizing this building will save the taxpayers thousands of dollars in building costs and more importantly ensure a smooth transition for the new EMS service.
Volunteers have been encouraged to apply for the paid positions or continue volunteering as a Township Auxiliary EMT. We recognize the value of volunteerism and we encourage those who have the time and skill set to be a part of our team. This township operated EMS Division will eventually include paid Firefighters who will also be dually-certified as EMTs. They will supplement the dayshift volunteers’ fire calls along with answering first aid calls for service. Chief Parker said: “We will have a fully functional emergency response team with Police, Fire and EMTs all working together for the betterment of the community.”
As Mayor, it is my goal and that of the Council and Chief of Police to provide the best 24/7 emergency service to our community, with the highest training standards, and become the model for the state of New Jersey.