January turned out to be a record-breaking month for the . For the first in its 50-year history, the squad has had four emergency vehicles operating at the same time, and, twice last month, the squad has had to max out its resources answering emergency calls. On those occasions, emergency responders answered nine local calls — almost double their average daily call rate from the year before.
"I don't know that I can pinpoint it to one thing," Squad Captain Kari Phair said.
While the high volume of calls has been unsual, there is no specific reason for the uptick. In the first instance in mid January, all four of the squad’s ambulances were used to answer nine calls within two hours. Those calls included a motor vehicle accident at Glenside Avenue and Henry Street, and within the span of a half hour, a medical emergency at Spring Meadows, and a fire at . That hectic day also included two ambulance squads responding to an auto accident on Route 78.
On Monday, the squad responded to a total of nine calls as well as an additional three out-of-town support calls.
“There are days when we are not very busy, but others when we respond non-stop. Monday was like that,” Phair said. “Fortunately we have the ambulances, equipment, and active volunteers to handle that kind of call volume."
There are 70 active adult volunteers in the squad, according to Phair. Another 18 squad members qualify as "junior volunteers" (16-18 years old), and are still in high school.
The ambulance squad was able to add a fourth vehicle to its ranks this summer, after deciding to keep an older model vehicle in operation in case of emergencies. The squad changes out its ambulances every three years, buying a new vehicle and selling the old one.
Last year the squad responded to 1,881 emergency calls, averaging about five calls a day, according to the group’s president John Christmann. Of those calls 161 were for aid to other towns. "It was pretty much on target with our usual numbers," Phair said. In 2010, the squad answered around 1,968 calls, she said. Logged calls range from emergencies to stand-by for fireworks displays to street fairs.
Additionally, the squad is on call to help out other towns.
“We have mutual aid agreements with neighboring towns,” Phair said. The Summit Volunteer First Aid Squad assists in other areas whenever those squads are busy or require backup. “The crews were in ambulances all day long,” Phair said about her squad’s additional duties this week. Places with mutual aid agreements with Summit include Springfield, Berkeley Heights, Chatham, Millburn and New Providence.
Generally, Summit has enough of its own first responders. “Thanks to our dedicated volunteers, we are seldom in a position where we need help from other squads to cover Summit,” she said.
The Summit Volunteer First Aid Squad will celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. "We're planning a big open house and celebration," Phair said about a July 28th block-party style anniversary celebration. Check back with Patch for more information on upcoming events. If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering call (908) 277-9479, or visit their web site at www.summitems.org.