WESTFIELD, NJ – The Westfield Volunteer Rescue Squad has been supporting the Westfield community since 1951, providing emergency medical services to those in need for free. They handle everything from slip-and-falls to heart attacks, and the team even jokes that, while it might not be their forte, they are even qualified to deliver a baby if they need to.
The 24-hour volunteer squad is stationed on the south side of the Westfield roundabout at 335 Watterson Street. Manned by a volunteer dispatcher and a volunteer squad 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the organization is always at the ready to respond to emergencies in Westfield and the surrounding area.
While there are several nearby towns with their own volunteer squad, more and more volunteer squads are being replaced by staffed organizations that are typically supported by tax dollars. While these squads employ EMTs with the same level of certifications and qualifications, the challenge is that they are required to respond to a greater volume of calls and they cover a much wider territory. These squads pay EMTs and are typically not volunteer based.
Cacheca Hoff, an EMT with the WVRS, said that that in more serious cases, such as cardiac arrest emergencies, the added travel times from squads managing larger territories could be the difference between a successful resuscitation and a negative outcome.
While all EMTs, regardless of their organization, must undergo a series of testing and certification requirements, the difference between the WVRS and staffed organizations is the medical bill. All services rendered by the volunteer squad are free. Traditional squads will typically itemize their bill, charging for supplies including latex gloves and oxygen usage on top of a loading fee which can be upwards of $600.
While the WVRS squad is equipped to respond to all medical emergencies, depending on the complexity of a call, paramedics may be required to respond. Services rendered by paramedics are not free of charge. Certified EMTs are often able to determine whether a call requires a paramedic and if the emergency is within the scope of care for the WVRS, they can call off paramedics and save patients from unnecessary medical expenses and get local paramedics back on the road to respond to other emergencies.
“As the old saying goes — BLS before ALS,” said Dean Zarszynski, a Union County Paramedic. “In many ways their job is more important than ours.”
Zarszynski is referring to the squad’s “Basic Life Saving” qualifications. Typically one of the first to arrive on a scene, the squad is tasked with determining the severity of a victim’s emergency and can begin administering necessary lifesaving support. Their assessment of an emergency can help streamline a paramedic’s emergency care approach.
“All of the local squads in the area are wonderful,” said Steven Korba, treasurer and EMT at the WVRS. “But I think one of the things that sets us apart from some of the other squads is that I feel we are a very scholarly group.”
Korba went on to mention some of the career paths of current squad members, highlighting the fact that many members are currently pursuing careers in the medical industry.
Squad members are quick to point out that because the squad is volunteer based, everyone on the rescue team is there because they love their job. When asked if he ever gets tired of his work as an EMT, squad member Trey Ellis shakes his head.
“Never. I love helping people,” he said.
The squad relies solely on donations from individuals and businesses in the area. While there are organized fund drives during the year, the squad is always accepting donations. They hope that they will be able to allocate funds to upgrade to an electronic charting system in the near future. The upgrade comes with a hefty price tag but will help crews operate more efficiently.
If you’re interested in volunteering at the squad or if you’d like to donate to the organization, visit the rescue squad's website at www.WestfieldRescueSquad.org.