Where were you were during the Blizzard of 2010 when nearly two feet of snow fell in late December?
Local roads were treacherous and numerous vehicles slid off the road into other cars or got stuck in drifts. South Brunswick Police handled more than 250 calls for service during this two-day period.
Hopefully, you obeyed official recommendations and stayed warm and dry inside your home.
There are a group of men and women who voluntarily gave up the luxury of safety and personal comfort in order to respond to the emergency medical needs of our community.
They are the men and women of the Kendall Park First Aid and Rescue Squad, the Kingston First Aid Squad and the Monmouth Junction First Aid Squad, who volunteer to provide emergency medical services (EMS) every day of the year for you, me and local businesses.
For the duration of this historic storm, they ate and slept at their respective squad buildings in order to respond quickly to medical emergencies. There were at least 18 such calls to private homes and roadside locations, many requiring transport to Princeton or New Brunswick area hospitals for evaluation and treatment.
When I asked one member how she could possibly think of going out in that awful storm, she said simply, "We are EMS. That's what we do."
An Invisible Safety Net
South Brunswick's three squads form an invisible safety net that most township residents don't know about until they are sick or injured and dial 911.
Few realize that the ambulance that arrives is manned by fellow community members who attend extensive and unpaid training on their own time, both before being certified as EMTs (emergency medical technicians) and afterward for recertification.
Even fewer realize that this volunteer service, while free to the recipient, is unsupported by township or state public tax money. All three squads rely on public contributions to meet their budget needs for supplies, training and equipment.
Despite the lack of public awareness and financial support, these unpaid squads have amassed an impressive set of achievements that include:
- Service to the township for a very long time (Monmouth Junction squad was founded in 1936, Kendall Park squad in 1960 and Kingston squad in 1972)
- Responding, on average, to more than 3,000 calls every year
- Recording more than 12,000 volunteer hours a year, with most squad members averaging between 12 and 20 hours of weekly service
- Logging more than 70,000 ambulance-miles a year in the performance of their duties
In Their Own Words
Currently, there are approximately 85 full members on the squads. I asked them to share with me why they have chosen this remarkable path of service. The following three responses are representative, heartfelt and illuminating:
From Prem Ghorray, Kendall Park First Aid and Rescue Squad:
"I enjoy helping the sick and the injured because I like to help out the community and have since I was small. The joy I get out of EMS is that I’ve helped another person in need and/or saved a life. [I’m 22 and] have been on the squad since I was 14, riding as an ‘Explorer’ and riding in the back since [I was] 16. … I currently hold the second lieutenant position."
From Marty Haller, Monmouth Junction First Aid Squad:
"I am currently the president of the MJFAS and have been a member for the past 25 years. I joined the squad in 1986, along with my son, Scott. In the past, I have volunteered to coach my sons in basketball, baseball and soccer. I have been active for many years in Boy Scout Troop 10 and served as committee chairman for a number of years. Being involved with the first aid squad enables me to serve my community and donate time and effort to assist its members."
From Ray Weis, Kendall Park First Aid and Rescue Squad:
"In 1996 I was at Community Unity Day with my family, including my
son Scott, who was a member of the first aid squad. We were talking to Tom
Cooper, who at the time was the captain of the squad. He knew my background as a professional tractor-trailer driver and mentioned that the squad could use some help as a driver, one Saturday a month, if I was interested.
“At the time I had been living in Kendall Park for almost 20 years and
thought it might be a good way to give back a little something to the
community, as I knew I could drive. Well, one thing led to another,
and after a while I decided to get my EMT certification. By this time I was
running every Friday night and every fourth Saturday.
“Next up, I became second lieutenant and by 2001, had worked my way up to squad captain. On 9/11/01, I responded with about 10 other squad members for WTC [World Trade Center]-related duties in North Jersey and New York City. Altogether, about 20 members of the squad were involved, with various relief efforts involving the terrorist attack on N.Y.C.
“In 2006 I retired from my driving job, became squad captain again
and started running daytime calls; I’m still running every Friday night and
every fourth Saturday. I derive a great deal of satisfaction from helping my
neighbors and recommend it to anybody who is looking for something to do that is both highly satisfying and lets you work with a great bunch of
people, while meeting some very interesting people who are your neighbors that you weren't even aware of."
Supporting Our Hometown Heroes
South Brunswick is extraordinarily fortunate to have a viable volunteer emergency medical services system.
Many towns across America are faced with a dearth of any volunteers willing to embrace such dedication and have had to hire professional EMS to respond to 911 calls. Funding is usually through increased property taxes.
Unfortunately, money can't buy the heroism and dedication of volunteers that transform a township into a community. We need to support the heart and spirit of those who sacrifice their time and sleep to be there in our time of medical crisis.
Financial contributions are down because of the economy. More people have moved into South Brunswick and are requesting emergency services. Please consider supporting the squad serving your section of town, financially and/or with your time as a volunteer.
For further information, including how to contact each squad, go to
In the meantime, let's all give a deep bow of thanks to these hometown heroes.