City squad ranks are dwindling

Lambertville-New Hope Ambulance and Rescue Squad has only about 20 members, five of whom are not available, and wants to have at least 35.

By:Carl Reader
   LAMBERTVILLE — The City Council Tuesday night heard Lambertville-New Hope Ambulance and Rescue Squad President Robert Brown describe a severe lack of manpower on his squad that limits its ability to serve the public.
   "I’m not saying you’re not going to get your calls covered, but we have a lot of problems," Mr. Brown said.
   The problems stem from the depleted number of members on the squad. Currently, the squad has 20 members, but two are on leave in school, one is in the service, and two are pregnant. That leaves 15 squad members to cover the 1,200 to 1,300 calls the squad receives per year.
   "That puts us down 15 to 16 active members," Mr. Brown said.
   The squad is responsible for covering emergency situations in Lambertville, West Amwell, New Hope, part of Solebury and part of Delaware Township. In addition to the 15 active members currently available for duty, Mr. Brown said he has five retired former members, some of whom still carry their EMT certification and still do some work.
   The squad has people on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With fewer members, it’s spread thin, according to Mr. Brown.
   "That breaks down to 144 six-hour shifts," he said.
   Since the squad is so depleted, it has to concentrate on 911 calls and already has informed some organizations, like Ramblers football, it no longer will be able to provide standby service, even though Ramblers’ rules require an EMT to be present. Mr. Brown also said at the Shad Festival this past weekend the squad was able to provide only one standby ambulance and five people as compared to three ambulances and 15 people in past years.
   "Standbys are going to be just about nothing," Mr. Brown said.
   To maintain services such as a three-minute response time to Pennsylvania, the squad has to stay in the building. Mr. Brown said he was lucky because he lives near the squad building on Alexandria Road, but others have just about made it their home.
   "Everybody else is in the building sleeping," he said. "We are not getting people to volunteer."
   To qualify as an EMT, a person must take an 120-hour course and pass a state test. Then he or she has to spend three or four months learning on the job, according to Mr. Brown.
   "We have standards," Mr. Brown said. "We’re not going to lower our standards for the health of people."
   The average time out for one crew and one ambulance is two hours, Mr. Brown said. There are three ambulances with the squad, each of which costs $125,000 unequipped. If the number of volunteers keeps dwindling, there will have to be more paid people on the squad, Mr. Brown said, and that means somebody will have to pay for service, whether it’s the town or the individuals served.
   "We’ve been able to stay above board and not charge people," Mr. Brown said.
   Councilman Steve Stegman asked if this was the lowest the squad has ever been in manpower, and Mr. Brown said it was. He reminded the council the town is obligated to supply a fire department but it is not obligated to supply ambulance service. He also said more territory had been given to his squad in Bucks County.
   "You’re the first borough I’ve gone to with this problem, but I’m going to go to all of them," Mr. Brown said.
   Mayor David Del Vecchio asked Mr. Brown what type of people he needed, and Mr. Brown responded he needed EMTs. The training needed can come through the squad, he added. The squad also needs banquet crew members to help out. Several members of the Police Department have EMT certification, and that has been a big help, Mr. Brown said.
   "Maybe we could encourage the rest of the Police Department to get their EMTs," City Clerk Mary Sheppard said.
   Mr. Brown said his goal was to have 35 active members.
   The number for interested people to call is 397-0945.