WEST CALDWELL, NJ – Ninety percent of the cost to purchase a new ambulance and digital communications system for the West Essex First Aid Squad (WEFAS) will be covered thanks to two Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grants that were awarded to the volunteer group in order to help the WEFAS better serve its communities.

In addition to purchasing a new ambulance to replace an outdated 2003 Ford F450 ambulance that has reached the end of its useful life, the funds will also help cover the cost of a base station as well as mobile and portable radios for the New Jersey State Police P25 digital trunked communication network.

“WEFAS never charges for its services and is dependent upon voluntary contributions from the residents, businesses and municipal governments in our area,” said WEFAS Captain David Black. “These grants will make these essential upgrades possible.”

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Black added that the squad has had to use capital reserves in order to meet its operating expenses during the recession. As a result, he said that WEFAS would not be able to manage critical expenditures like these without public support of the squad’s fundraising efforts.

"I'm so grateful to the volunteers of the WEFAS for the emergency medical, ambulance and light rescue services they provide,” said Senator Bob Menendez. “And I'm incredibly happy to see that Captain David Black and his dedicated team now have the resources they need to enhance their vital communications tools and buy a brand-new ambulance.”

Menendez said that the announcement of the FEMA grants is “exactly why [he has] fought each and every year for federal funding”—so that WEFAS can continue serving the communities of western Essex County and surrounding areas.

"New Jersey's first responders like the WEFAS are on the front lines day in and day out keeping our communities safe," said Senator Cory Booker. "We have an obligation to ensure these brave men and women have the resources they need to do their jobs safely and effectively. This federal investment takes an important step in fulfilling that mission.”

According to Black, having modern and high-quality ambulances is a critical element of a first aid squad’s operations, and the current WEFAS ambulance has reached the point where its maintenance and operating costs have become excessive.

“The new ambulance will have an immediate and positive impact by reducing costs and ambulance downtime for repairs,” said Black, adding that the radio-system upgrade also fills a critical need for the WEFAS. “Our local police departments are moving to the state police system and these new radios will allow WEFAS to maintain critical direct communications with police and fire departments in the five towns of our primary service area.”

According to Black, the new radio equipment will allow clear, direct communications both within and without the WEFAS primary service area, which includes Caldwell, Essex Fells, Fairfield, North Caldwell and West Caldwell. As a member of the Essex County Joint EMS Task Force, WEFAS has responded to various locations throughout the county as well as Port Newark, Newark Airport, Liberty State Park and Hoboken.

The FEMA awards are part of the FEMA Assistance to Firefighter’s Grant (AFG) Program, which provides funds to nonaffiliated EMS organizations such as WEFAS as well as to eligible fire departments. The funding intends to enhance the safety of the public by providing critically needed resources to equip and train emergency personnel to recognized standards, enhance operations efficiencies, foster interoperability and support community resilience.

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