SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — When an ambulance is called for in South Orange, no bill is sent out. That's because the South Orange Rescue Squad is staffed by voluntary EMT's who have not slowed down during the coronavirus crisis. 

“How lucky we are to have such dedicated and hard-working members,” said SORS Captain Sean Cass. “We’re all volunteer… The only reason they’re coming in here is because they want to help people. They believe in our mission of neighbors helping neighbors. That’s the dedication and commitment we’ve seen throughout this time.”  Cass said the 55-60 members of the squad are EMTs, cadets (those under 18 either in training or a probationary EMT) and administrative volunteers.

Cass himself started volunteering in 2013 as a cadet, and now is captain of the squad at age 22. "I’m actually a second generation rescue squad member. Both my father and my uncle started on the squad when they were about my age,” he said, and his uncle is a past captain as well.

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For any call that may be conronavirus-related, the crew dons their personal protective equipment (PPE), complete with Tyvek suits, N95 resiperators and surgical masks, gloves, “and full face protection in the form of face shields and goggles. It’s an adjustment for us,” Cass said, as they are used to going directly into someone’s home on a call. “Now we have to take a step back and prepare ourselves and make sure we’re safe before we go in to try and help someone.”

They are taking those full precautions automatically for any call where respiratory symptoms have been relayed or cardiac arrest, “anything where our chances of getting exposed to the virus are increased.” For other calls, such as a slip and fall, “we are screening that patient when we arrive, asking questions like if they have any flu-like symptoms before we enter the residence. And we are still wearing the respirators ourselves and giving the patients surgical masks to wear while we are in contact with them regardless of their complaint or illness.”

“Two of our members have had COVID. One of them has fully recovered… and he was cleared by his doctor to return to work with us, which he did with no hesitation, no second thoughts.” Another member is currently out sick. The exposures identified were not related to their work at the rescue squad, he said. As an extra precaution, when inside the squad building on Sloan Street, all squad members wear surgical masks.

“In an effort to reduce exposure, we’ve cut down our staffing to the minimum, which is two EMTs per shift,” noted Cass. Still, social distancing is difficult to achieve for EMTs on a call. “Of course in our work it’s kind of hard not to get up close and personal to help someone.” Currently, to reduce exposures, one member is making the initial contact while the other member stays back to gather information or prepare equipment.

The squad is appreciative of the donations they have received from the community, such as the N95 respirators and surgical masks, some gowns and coveralls. Monetary donations are always welcome, and are used to buy PPE and cleaning supplies, which “we are going through quite quickly,” said Cass.

Another way the community has stepped up is in the donation of meals; the effort was spearheaded by Village President Sheena Collum. “Our members are very grateful for that,” said Cass. 

SORS is solely funded by donations. The squad does not receive any tax money nor do they send a bill for the EMT and ambulance services provided. Donations received pay for personal protective equipment, as well as medical equipment, uniforms, and vehicle maintenance. Go to to make a tax deductible donation.


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