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Mayor Proclaims First Aid Squad Month

Keeping a longstanding tradition, Mayor Nora Radest issued a Proclamation designating September as “Summit Volunteer First Aid Squad Month” in the City. The Proclamation comes just ahead of the Squad’s plan to launch their annual fund drive. Since it’s inception in 1962, the First Aid Squad has been staffed entirely by volunteers and funded solely by private contributions. The Squad receives no government funding and does not bill for service. “For 60 years, neither our patients, nor the taxpayers have ever receive a bill for our service”, said Squad Chief John Staunton who accepted the Proclamation from the Mayor. In her Proclamation, Mayor Radest praise the Squad form answering over 2,200 emergency calls last year and estimated the Squad saves the City about 2 million dollars annually. The Squad’s fund drive is a mail campaign sent to every residence and business in Summit. They do not solicit by phone and do not use any outside fundraising agencies. Even the fund drive itself is run by volunteers noted Squad President Kevin Caropreso.

Chief Staunton also made a pitch for new volunteers pointing out that people remain the Squad’s most valuable asset and that they are always looking to add to their ranks. The Squad provides all necessary training and uniforms For more information, or to inquire about joining our winning team, please visit the First Aid Squad website: summitems.org

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Beverly Brown Recognized for EMS Excellence

Beverly Brown, a long-time member of the Summit Volunteer First Aid Squad received the 2022 Excellence in EMS Award from Overlook Medical Center.  An active member for nearly 40 years, Beverly joined the Squad as a Junior member while in high school, continued to serve the Squad while on school breaks during her college years and returned as an adult member after graduation. The Summit First Aid Squad has been a big part of Beverly’s life.  Both of her parents were long time Squad members, her husband also joined the Squad and their daughter served as a Junior member as well. Beverly has held numerous offices over the years including 3 years as Captain and is currently the Crew Chief of the Friday night shift. An experienced critical care nurse, Beverly also serves on the Squad’s call review committee.  According to Chief John Staunton who nominated Mrs. Brown for the award, “During the pandemic, Beverly remained active and often stepped in to cover open shifts.  She continues to serve on at least one, often two Saturday night shifts each month and is also one of our most frequent responders to back-up calls when we need a 2nd or 3rd crew.  Beverly’s commitment to the Summit Volunteer First Aid Squad epitomizes the dedication that has made our organization so successful”. 

The all-volunteer First Aid Squad, responds to emergency calls 24/7, is entirely funded through private donations and does not bill for service.  The Squad is always looking for new volunteers to join its ranks. All needed training, uniforms and equipment is provided. For information on becoming a volunteer, or donating to the squad please call 908-277-9479, or visit their web site at: www.summitems.org.

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Squad Celebrates 60 Years of Service

Summit Volunteer First Aid Squad celebrates its 60th anniversary of serving the community this summer.  Sis Barker and Betty Bangs, both of whom were members of the Junior League, decided to start a First Aid Squad in Summit. With the blessing of the Junior League, they began their project and enlisted the help of a local Businessman, Michael J. Formichella who used his influence in the community to help organize the Squad. On July 28, 1962 the Summit Volunteer First Aid Squad, Inc. was formed.

Overlook Hospital donated its old ambulance which the squad operated for a few months until it was able to purchase a new Cadillac ambulance. The ambulance was housed for a couple of years in Formichella’s garage on Broad Street, and members met and trained in their homes.

A building fund was organized to construct a headquarters for the new Squad. The City of Summit agreed to lease a piece of land on Summit Avenue, across from LCJ Summit Middle School, to the Squad for one dollar per year. Much of the work on the building including excavating, plumbing, heating and electrical was either donated or performed by volunteers. Among the charter members of the Squad were an excavator, Mike Formichella; a mason contractor, Andy Soccodato; and a heating contractor, Jim Burns. Construction was completed in 1964.

Since those humble beginnings sixty years ago, the Squad has expanded to provide emergency services 24/7 to Summit and surrounding communities.  No one has ever received a bill for Squad services.  The Squad relies exclusively upon donations from private citizens and foundations, receiving no funding from the City of Summit.  All Squad members are volunteers, who seek no compensation for providing help to their neighbors when it is needed most.           

John Staunton joined the Squad over 30 years ago shortly after returning home from Villanova University. He had some first aid experience as a lifeguard instructor and gained interest in EMS after witnessing an accident involving a friend at school.  EMS has been like a second career for John, as his “day job” has been primarily as an engineer.  He became a CPR and then an EMT Instructor at a young age and has served in multiple positions over the years, including as President and currently Chief.  “Serving on the Summit First Aid Squad has been a great experience where I’ve made some lifelong friends and had the chance to help many neighbors as well as perfect strangers. What I like most about the Squad is how people from various backgrounds and walks of life can work together so effectively to fulfill such a vital mission”.  The lifesaving skills Squad members learn can also be very valuable in everyday life and John has had several instances where that experience helped family, friends and co-workers.

Mel Harari, joined the Squad 14 years ago in July 2008 and has been the Records Lieutenant since 2009.  She moved to the United States from Argentina in 2001.  Without any prior medical experience, Mel attended EMT school that fall.  Two of Mel’s sons were junior members, both of whom became doctors, thought she would enjoy becoming a volunteer.  “I’m not sure if they hadn’t been members of the squad, they would have become doctors.  Being on the Squad was a big exposure to the healthcare industry for them.”  During Mel’s years at the Squad, she said she gained a level of empathy and understanding for individuals with physical issues that she never had before.  “I am now able to put myself in the position as a patient.  My experiences helped me tremendously when my mother was ill. My knowledge assisted me in making decisions regarding my mother’s care.”  “The level of commitment people have here is not seen in other squads.  I like the people I work with.  We have good challenges and conversations among a group who is wise and listens to one another.”    

An EMT since 2021, Mateo Zoubek joined the squad at age 17 as a member of the junior program.  Mateo, a student at Newark Academy, was interested in possibly pursuing medicine as a career option and wanted experience in the field.  Mateo attended EMT school during the summer of 2021 and found the course much easier since he was familiar with equipment and had basic knowledge of patient assessments.  “I was exposed to being an EMT even though I wasn’t one.  You absorb the information which makes becoming certified much easier.”  He decided to take a gap year after high school to obtain hands-on experience as an EMT to expand upon the limited patient interaction received as a junior member.  “Joining the squad is a great way to serve the community and obtain experience in the medical field I wouldn’t otherwise have.  I think it’s been a great stepping stone for my career choice.  For adults who aren’t in the same career-choice position as I am, I think it’s a great way to serve the community in a productive manner.”  Mateo is attending Georgetown University majoring in neurobiology. 

Jenny McIlwain first joined the Squad as a member of the junior program the summer after her sophomore year at Summit High School.  She thought it would be a good indicator in determining if she wanted to go into medicine or not.  “I think I had the best training during my time as a junior.  Every single shift we would practice skills and training.   By the time I got to EMT school, I had a leg up on everyone else because I learned so much before going in.”  Jenny completed EMT school in June 2021 and is majoring in neuroscience at the University of Washington in Seattle. 

Joining the Squad family was the right move for them, and it could be for you as well.  As the Squad begins its seventh decade of selfless service, we are actively seeking new members to our winning team. Our members include men and women of all ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds united by a strong desire to help others.  Most people who join the Squad have had no prior medical experience.  Neighbors Helping Neighbors is both our motto and our mission.  Fulfilling it is an incredible experience that’s hard to match.  To help assess whether one is interested in joining the Squad, we offer an observer program that allows prospective volunteers to accompany a working crew for a shift or two. These “Ride-Along” opportunities give the experience of what being a first responder is like before any commitment is made. For more information, or to inquire about joining our winning team, please visit our website, summitems.org/join

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A New Record: Summit EMS Answers 2,221 Calls in 2021

Summit’s EMS Volunteers closed out a very busy 2021 by answering 179 emergency calls in December.  These included 100 medical emergencies: 10 falls; 20 motor vehicle accidents, including one on a highway, one into a tree and two overturned vehicle accidents; 16 traumatic injuries, including one assault; four cases of overdose or poisoning; four allergic reactions; five responses to a medical alarm, two pedestrians struck by a vehicle, and one woman in active labor. Squad Volunteers also provided 9 “lift assists” to patients who did not require transport to a hospital and six non-emergency ambulance transports of Summit residents. 

Last month, 17 emergency calls were answered by an off-duty “back-up crew” of volunteers responding from home or work when the on-duty crew is busy.  There were also 17 emergency responses by Summit to provide mutual aid assistance to 6 neighboring towns.  14 patients transported to a hospital by Squad members also received advanced life support care from hospital-based paramedics who accompanied the Squad’s ambulance.

The Squad answers calls for help 24 hours a day and at a variety of locations. December responses included 83 to a patient’s home or apartment; 25 for accidents or medical emergencies on roads or highways; five in public buildings; one in a public park; ten at a local business; one at a school; and nine to a health care professional’s office.  There were also four medical incidents on sidewalks; three in parking lots; nine at Summit’s Train Station; 16 at a local behavioral health facility; seven to an assisted living facility; and five on the grounds of Overlook Medical Center.

The Squad answered a total of 2,221 emergency calls in 2021, with the crew of Chief John Staunton and Deputy Chief George Shepherd clearing from the final call at 11:59 PM on New Year’s Eve.  Staunton and Shepherd also answered the first call of 2022 at 3:27 AM on New Year’s Day.

The all-volunteer First Aid Squad, responds to emergency calls 24/7, is entirely funded through private donations and does not bill for service.  The Squad is always looking for new volunteers to join its ranks. All needed training, uniforms and equipment is provided. For information on becoming a volunteer, or donating to the squad please call 908-277-9479, or visit their web site at: www.summitems.org.

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Squad Installs New Officers, Answered over 2,200 Calls

The Summit Volunteer First Aid Squad is pleased to announce its 2022 Leadership team.  Mayor Nora Radest paid a visit to the Squad building to administer the Oath of Office. 

The Squad’s new President is Kevin Caropreso who previously served as Vice President. Prior to joining the Squad after moving to Summit in 2017, he served for 35 years at the Montgomery First Aid Squad and then Hillsboro Rescue Squad and was also a member of the Point Pleasant First Aid Squad where he had a vacation home.  John Buscaino who previously served as President and Training Lieutenant is the new Vice President. Nora Burd assumes the role of Corresponding Secretary. Treasurer Bob Mendes and Recording Secretary Rob McGrath return in their respective roles.

John Staunton assumes the role of Chief, a position he first held in the 1990’s (then called Captain) and again in 2013-14. An active member since 1983, Staunton has served in numerous positions including 5 terms as President.  George Shepherd, a former Maintenance Lieutenant is the new Deputy Chief. Paul Raynolds assumes the role of Maintenance Lieutenant.  Training Lieutenant Robert Endress, Equipment Lieutenant John Christmann, Personnel Lieutenant Kerry Whitcher and Records Lieutenant Mel Harari are all continuing in their positions.

Squad Trustees include: Laura Benevento, Beverly Brown, and Fred Schwarzmann.

Last year Squad members answered 2,221 emergency calls. The all-volunteer First Aid Squad, responds to emergency calls 24/7, is entirely funded through private donations and does not bill for service. The Squad is always looking for new volunteers to join its ranks. All needed training, uniforms and equipment is provided. For information on becoming a volunteer, or donating to the squad please call 908-277-9479, or visit their web site at: www.summitems.org

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20 Years Later: EMS Volunteers Remember 9/11

On September 11, 2001 we as a nation experienced one of the worst tragedies in our history.  Many people from all walks of life responded to that incident in a variety of ways.  Here in Summit, it was the largest response in the history of the Summit Volunteer First Aid Squad.  Including the duty crew, 49 members answered the call for help that day.  In the following days, several responded to help with the rescue/recovery efforts in Manhattan.  19 members received a citation for service at “ground zero”. 

Here are a few of their stories:

Beverly Brown was Squad Captain at the time (a position now called “Chief”).  Like many, she was at work that day when hearing news of the attack and like several of our members, left work to answer the request for us to mobilize.  As the Squad’s chief officer, she was asked join City officials in the local Emergency Operations Center to plan a response, later leaving to lead the large EMS operation at Summit’s train station.  She arranged to borrow 3 additional ambulances, all of which were used that day.  Phone calls were placed to every Squad member with follow-ups to those unaccounted for.   One member, Clive “Ian” Thompson worked in WTC and had not been heard from since the 2nd plane hit.  As many train passengers from New York detrained in Summit, many covered with dust and debris, Beverly looked at each in hopes of seeing Ian.  We would later learn that our friend Ian was lost that day.

John Staunton was Squad President and like most Tuesdays went to work a bit later after his Monday night EMS shift.  While driving to work on the Garden State Parkway, he heard news reports on the radio and could see smoke from Tower 1. From the parking lot at work, he called the Squad HQ to see what might be needed. There was no news. A few moments later, the 2nd plane hit. After unsuccessful attempts to call colleagues inside his office came the EMS radio dispatch, “CENCOM to all members from Clark, Kenilworth, Summit EMS…”. He too headed back to Summit.  At Squad HQ, he assigned crews to the Squads 2nd and 3rd ambulances and helped set up 3 additional ambulances that were loaned by Paul Vickery, a member who owned a Summit based ambulance dealership at the time. John would later join a crew into NYC to help with the rescue effort and recalls a sobering leaders briefing on Friday night when the operation was officially changed to a “recovery” effort.  We all knew what that meant.  John recalls the outpouring of support from the community both on that Tuesday and in the following weeks.  There was true unity in our community and the nation.

Kate Getzendanner was the duty crew chief that day and her crew was kept busy with seven emergency calls in Summit, including a car accident attributed to the driver being distracted by the NYC incident.  Despite the fact that she had not heard from her husband, Kate remained on duty all day.  Tom made it home later than night.  Sadly, his sister did not.

Rich Ryden was still at home when hearing the news. He headed straight for the Squad HQ and was assigned to one of two ambulances we sent to Jersey City.  His crew went to a large triage area at Liberty State Park set up to receive patients from New York.  After few patients arrived and communication with NYC was lost, the commander there asked his Summit crew to head over on a boat and deliver a message.  Taking EMS gear with them, they completed that task and were then asked to help a NYC EMS crew southwest of the towers where they treated several firefighters.  While there Rich recalls seeing an overturned FDNY fire engine in a pile of rubble just 50 yards away.  He also recalls watching three FDNY firefighters erecting an American flag atop what looked like a damaged construction vehicle.  A photo of that event from a different angle has since become an icon of the 9/11 response.

Mike D’Ecclessis was working as the Court Clerk in Plainfield when a colleague heard the news. Shortly after he let her go home, a call came from the Assignment Judge to close all courts in the County. There was a fear terrorists might target courts.  After closing the court, Mike left work himself and answered the Squad’s “all hands” call for help.  Mike was assigned with 2 dozen other members to the train station to help treat and decontaminate passengers from the City.  All wore PPE including Tyvek suits since we unsure what might be in that dust.  Summits Fire Dept assisted a HazMat team from Novartis in operating a decontamination tent in the train station parking lot.  Squad members evaluated over 600 passengers and 75 received full decontamination on site. Three days later Mike joined a Summit crew standing by in NYC for the rescue effort.  He recalls the cheers from many as the convoy of New Jersey ambulances emerged from the Holland Tunnel.  At the Chelsea Pier staging area, many local restaurant owners and vendors offered the responders a variety of food and drink during their 14+ hour shift.  All was complimentary.  Mike recalls “many things were a blur to me as I could not imagine the pain and suffering of the families that lost members. My thoughts shifted to two people I knew were missing Todd Ranke, who was a former member of the Squad and Ian Thompson who was a current member. Knowing both of them the way I did, I know they were trying to help others. We must never forget the PEOPLE”.

Matt Sinclair also heard the news on the radio on the way to work. Between leaving his car and entering his office news came of the 2nd plane.  Matt headed home and along with his wife Maureen who was also a Squad member, responded to Squad HQ.  All 3 of our ambulances were on calls at that moment and the 3 we were borrowing had not yet arrived. That’s when the first report of trains with injured people came in. Matt and Maureen helped load supplies into their personal car and responded to the train station with 2 other members. That 4 person team conducted triage on the few passengers that were starting to arrive. Luckily none had serious injuries and the 3 borrowed ambulances were equipped and arrived on scene before the large crowds.  Matt recalls a man who appeared distraught and when a few mental health professionals arrived to offer help he immediately sent them his way.  Paul Vickery also loaned us a “command” trailer that was set up outside the station for use by the counselors.  Matt recalls, “I’ll never forget how many people told me they’d gone to work late because they had been watching the Giants play Monday Night Football the night before. Most of them couldn’t remember initially why they went in late, and it shocked them that their lives might have been spared because they watched a football game.”

Kari Phair, our current Chief, was at home when first hearing the news. She was very concerned because her father worked at WTC and decided to stay with her mother.  Once they heard he was safe, Kari also headed to Squad HQ where she worked with another member to secure additional supplies.  It was obvious that our supply of Tyvek suits would soon be exhausted as we were using them not only for members, but for patients who needed a full decon shower as well.  Kari was able to locate another 150 from various sources.  One was a friend and fellow EMT from an area rescue squad who worked for a pharmaceutical company that greed to donate supplies. He delivered those supplies in a Fanwood ambulance and that crew remained with us at the train station.  Two days later Kari would respond into NYC to help with the rescue effort.  She recalls “the sound of driving through the Holland Tunnel with no traffic was deafening and the caravan of ambulances moving through the tunnel was surreal beyond anything I have ever experienced.”  A few Years later, Summit EMS was honored to receive a part of the World Trade Center building that is now part of a memorial in the front lobby of our building for everyone to see.

Throughout the day on September 11, people came to the Squad building offering to help.  Without training, there was little for them to do that day.  However, several of them did become active members and a few are still active today.  During the following year our active membership would top 100 for the first time.

Since 1962, the all-volunteer First Aid Squad, has responded to emergency calls large and small 24/7, has been entirely funded through private donations and has never billed for service.  The Squad is always looking for new volunteers to join its ranks. All needed training, uniforms and equipment is provided. For information on becoming a volunteer, or donating to the squad please call 908-277-9479, or visit their web site at: www.summitems.org.

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St. Teresa of Avila Aids Squad

“Neighbors Helping Neighbors” has been the slogan used by the Summit First Aid Squad for over 50 years.  Thanks to generous members of the community including St Teresa of Avila Parish in Summit, that works both ways.  Monsignor Robert Meyer, aka Father Bob, Pastor at St. Teresa of Avila Parish, recently offered a donation on behalf of the Parish to the First Aid Squad, to thank them for all they’ve done for Summit during the past year. Karen Karen Barisonek, Finance Director for St Teresa’s; Father Bob presented a check to Bob Flanagan, President of the First Aid Squad.

St. Teresa of Avila encourages all Summit residents to consider donating to the Summit Volunteer First Aid Squad to thank them for their hard work and dedication to our community within the last year.

Serving Summit since 1962, the all-volunteer First Aid Squad, responds to emergency calls 24/7, is entirely funded through private donations and does not bill for service.  The Squad is always looking for new volunteers to join its ranks. All needed training, uniforms and equipment is provided. For information on becoming a volunteer, or donating to the squad please call 908-277-9479, or visit their web site at: www.summitems.org.

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Squad’s Annual Fund Drive Underway

The Summit Volunteer First Aid Squad , an independent nonprofit corporation dedicated to providing emergency medical services (EMS), non-emergency ambulance transportation, and safety training to the Summit community — all provided free of charge and entirely funded through private donations — has launched its annual fundraising appeal. A fund drive appeal letter has been mailed to each Summit home and business.  The First Aid Squad does not solicit by phone.

The Squad is asking area residents to support its vital, life-saving services through tax-deductible donations that will directly fund its operations.

The Squad receives no funding from the City or other government agencies and relies solely on private donations to fund the purchase of medical supplies, equipment, and for professional training of its members.

While many towns have been forced to hire paid staff or contract with a paid EMS agency, Summit remains one of the exceptions, with its team of full-time, dedicated Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) volunteers, most of whom are Summit residents. The Summit Volunteer First Aid Squad responds to more than 2,100 calls a year.  Since its founding in 1962, neither their patients nor the taxpayer have ever received a bill.

 “While these last six months have been perhaps the most challenging in our 58-year history, we have continued to provide emergency medical services to our patients at no cost to them or local government. We need your support to continue our essential work, regardless of the challenges ahead. Please help us with a donation today”, said Squad President Bob Flanagan. 

The First Aid Squad answers emergency calls for help 24/7 and is always looking for new volunteers to join its ranks. All needed training, uniforms and equipment is provided. For information on becoming a volunteer, donating to the squad, or to view a video about the Squad please visit their web site at: summitems.org or call 908-277-9479.

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National EMS Week in Summit

National EMS Week is a time to honor local Emergency Medical Services responders and promote awareness of their everyday services to the public.  Since 1974, every American President has signed a National EMS Week Proclamation.  This year’s version of EMS Week is particularly notable, given the enormous challenges facing EMS personnel due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, as well as the heroic efforts being made by so many EMS providers to help save lives, even as they risk the safety of themselves and their loved ones.    

This year’s EMS Week theme: “Ready Today. Preparing for Tomorrow” seems quite appropriate.  Despite the many dangers and difficulties posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, members of the Summit Volunteer First Aid Squad have continued to provide emergency pre-hospital care and ambulance transport, while diligently taking the precautions required to stay healthy and able to serve in this environment.  “The challenges have increased dramatically, and some of our procedures have changed in response to them, but our mission most certainly has not”, said Squad President Bob Flanagan.  “Under some of the most difficult circumstances imaginable, our members have continued to answer 9-1-1 calls every day and night.”    

Summit EMS volunteers began their EMS week recognition with a salute to EMS responders who have lost their lives in the line of duty this year, including 12 in New Jersey.

The Squad has been the City’s lead EMS agency since 1962, providing basic life support care and emergency ambulance transportation.  Other components of our EMS system include first responders from the Fire & Police Departments, Paramedics from Overlook Medical Center, Emergency Nurses & Physicians, 9-1-1 dispatchers and citizen first responders.  In addition to providing 24-hour emergency services, the Squad’s mission also includes public education in first aid, CPR, accident prevention and emergency preparedness.  

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Squad Volunteers Rise to the Challenge

Life for nearly all of us has changed quite a bit in the past 2 months.  And that’s certainly true at the Summit Volunteer First Aid Squad.  While many business and services are reduced or closed, the Squad volunteers are still answering calls for help; 156 of them in March.

The COVID-19 crisis has changed the way we answer calls and some of the equipment we use, but no call goes unanswered.  While a few members have stepped back from active duty to protect family members with health issues, several of our college members have returned home and helped to fill our ranks. 

Like most first responder and healthcare organizations, obtaining the personnel protective equipment or “PPE” has become a challenge.  “After seeing how quickly we were using our supply of disposable gowns, we obtained heavier duty reusable protective suits and issued one to each active member”, said Squad Chief Kari Phair.  Volunteers assembled a decontamination booth in the ambulance bay for cleaning after a call.  We have also been fortunate to receive several donations from local businesses and residents that included N95 respirators, surgical masks and face shields. 2 area high schools are among those using 3D printers to manufacture face shield bodies to which a clear file is attached.  When obtaining the disinfection products used in the ambulances became difficult, and the Squad obtained a UV sanitization device; the same technology used by many hospitals including Overlook.  According to Squad President Bob Flanagan, “The safety of our members and patients remains our #1 priority.”

A variety of local restaurants and good neighbors have also been sending food to the Squad. Since the duration for a typical medical call is often much longer these days resulting in missed meals that’s been helpful.  “Our volunteers truly appreciate the show of support from the community”, commented Flanagan.

While the number of calls has risen only slightly, the locations have changed.  With people staying home more, the Squad is seeing fewer car accidents and emergencies at places of business, while calls to a patient’s home have increased substantially.

On April 7, the Summit First Aid Squad led an effort to thank their local heroes: health care providers at Overlook Medical Center.  36 different agencies joined the Summit Squad in an appreciation parade past Overlook.  Summit Squad members participated in a similar effort the following week for St Barnabas Medical Center.

Crew Chief John Staunton, who also serves as Summit’s Board of Health President believes we may have passed the peak in COVID cases.  “We saw a good sign this afternoon when we had 3 ambulances respond to simultaneous calls and none were COVID related”.

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