The EMS Magazine Gold Award honors both a paid and volunteer service for their dedication to EMS. The 2009 award is sponsored by Emergency Products + Research, GKR Industries, Impact Instrumentation and ZOLL Medical Corporation.
VOLUNTEER SERVICE: ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS FIRST AID & SAFETY SQUAD
In 2008, the New Jersey Department of Health & Senior Services, Office of EMS, named the Atlantic Highlands First Aid & Safety Squad Outstanding Volunteer EMS Agency of the Year for "being an active, progressive emergency medical services organization that is dedicated to serving its community and surrounding areas." In 2009, EMS Magazine has selected the squad as its volunteer service Gold Award winner for the same reasons. Clearly, this is an agency that works hard to maintain its high standards and provide quality care to the citizens it serves.
The organization was founded in 1929 as a branch of the Atlantic Highlands Fire Department, but also served several surrounding towns as the only first aid squad in the area. It later split from the fire department and remains an independent squad that responds to nearly 500 calls a year in a town with a population of 4,700, plus thousands of daily commuters, recreational boaters and fishermen in one of the largest municipal harbors on the East Coast. Because of its location and local ferry service, the harbor has been cited as a drop-off point for a disaster in New York City—just 10 miles away by water. The borough served that purpose on September 11, 2001, and was also identified as an evacuation point for the 2004 Republican National Convention in New York City. Because of the squad's advanced training in disaster response, it is one of three in Monmouth County that is part of the statewide New Jersey EMS Task Force and is responsible for deployment of the county's mass casualty incident trailer.
Earlier this year, when the borough opened a 1.8-mile bike and hiking trail that the organization realized was inaccessible by a standard ambulance, they took a proactive approach and purchased a Polaris HD equipped with a Medlite bed in order to respond to calls on the trail. Locally, the squad has responsibility for vehicle extrication; cold water, ice and surface rescue operations; and firefighter rehab operations, which they accomplish with three ambulances staffed by fully trained basic EMTs. Squad members provide free or low-cost CPR and first aid classes to community groups, and have also trained all necessary personnel for the local Recreation Department. Members of the organization routinely visit local schools and community groups to talk about safety. Each December, the squad stages an annual Santa Run, where they pull Santa and his sleigh throughout the town, giving residents a chance to interact with EMS in a nonemergency situation.
In keeping up with the times, AHFAS has launched its own website and is using social networking as an outreach tool. In an effort to increase their visibility, squad members attempt to staff every local craft fair and other community events with an ambulance and issue media alerts throughout the year to inform citizens about their activities. "Winning this Gold Award is real validation for the countless hours that each volunteer puts into serving the community," says Chief Richard Huff. "Like any volunteer organization, none of us are doing this for glory or attention. We do it willingly, sometimes at the expense of our own personal and family time. When others are out golfing or going to the zoo, we're running out the door to help our neighbors, and you don't stop to think about that until you get an honor like this."
To read more about the winners, go to www.ahfirstaid.org.
PAID SERVICE: MECKLENBURG COUNTY EMS AGENCY
When Mecklenburg County EMS Agency (Medic) is recognized as the 2009 Gold Award winner during this year's EMS EXPO in Atlanta, one representative will take the stage to receive the award, but an entire busload of Medic providers will be in the audience to share the glory, thanks to the generosity of their employer. With that kind of support from management, is it any wonder they work hard to be the very best?