Quick-Response Squad Used To Assist County EMS Effort

Quick-Response Squad Used To Assist County EMS Effort

Apparatus and equipment of the Hummels Wharf, Pa., quick response squad.

Quic k-response squads are now being used to meet the needs of rural Snyder County, Pa., fire departments. Quickresponse squads are not an invention of Snyder County, of course. Fire departments in many areas are working with this idea. What’s unique about this program is the relatively large number of squads in use.

About six years ago, a local newspaper did a feature article on the needs of the county emergency services as perceived by the various fire chiefs. Among three or four major concerns cited by a majority of the chiefs was the need for more ambulance services in the largely rural county. At the time, only three of the county’s 14 volunteer fire departments were providing ambulance service.

In the next couple of years, two more ambulance companies went into service. Yet, even then, many areas of the county were still 10 to 15 minutes away from the nearest emergency medical aid.

Focus shifted

About a year ago, however, the focus shifted after some departments turned their attention to another form of emergency medical aid. Today, help is only a few minutes away in practically every area of the county.

Quick-response squads came to the rescue.

Of the nine county depart ments that do not operate ambulance services, six have quick-response squads. The squads answered more than 350 calls during 1981.

As with many quick-response squads, the Snyder County squads consist of volunteer members of the fire companies, most of whom are certified emergency medical technicians, who respond to an emergency and stablize the patient prior to the arrival of an ambulance.

When a medical emergency occurs in an area served by one of the squads, squad members are dispatched simultaneously with the nearest ambulance company by the county emergency communications center.

Improved communications

Snyder County’s communications center, which dispatches all of the county’s fire and police departments and ambulance services, was established in 1979 as the result of a partially federally funded 10-county emergency communications project. Until then, some of the county’s fire companies were not dispatched by radio. Even those that were radio dispatched reported to three different communications bases. This made the coordination of units necessary for quick-response squad service almost impossible.

Once the communications center was operational, it wasn’t long before the first quick-response squad unit was being organized. And the concept seemed to spread like wildfire throughout the county. Today, squads are operated by the Freeburg, McClure, Port Trevorton, Hummels Wharf, Shamokin Dam, and Mount Pleasant Mills fire departments. All but one of the six units use fire department apparatus to respond to emergency calls.

These squad trucks usually contain all the basic life-support equipment an ambulance carries, with the exception of a litter.

“We have portable oxygen, a resuscitator, a portable suction device, splints, backboards, a medical ’jump’ kit, and a variety of other emergency supplies,” says one squad official.

Members of the Port Trevorton company, the only unit without a vehicle designated for quick-response service, respond to emergencies in their private vehicles, carrying medical equipment with them. Though they hope to acquire a squad truck eventually, they believe their system is working well.


Frequently, members live throughout the region served by their squad, which, believes Scott Dietz, vice president of the Mount Pleasant Mills squad, increases the unit’s efficiency and reduces response time.

“If the call is near where I live, I can respond directly to the scene because I know there are several people in town who will respond with the squad truck,” Dietz says.

The McClure quick-response squad, in fact, stationed one medical kit with a member living in a nearby township it serves and placed another kit on its squad truck.

“This allows us to provide efficient coverage to both the borough and West Beaver Township,” Martin Romig, squad president, says.

In some cases, members of the squads also belong to the ambulance company serving their area and sometimes serve as attendants on the ambulance after they’ve stabilized the patient. Says one member, “Our primary purpose, of course, is to provide quick response to emergencies, but our going with the ambulance can be helpful at times, especially during the day when manpower is usually limited.”

Though rural areas far from the nearest ambulance service probably benefit most from quick-response squads, the units can also provide valuable service in more populous areas. Both Shamokin Dam Borough and Monroe Township, which make up part of Snyder County’s most highly developed and populated area, are served by quick-response squads.

Though the area is closer to ambulance services than some rural regions of the county, “it can still take time for an ambulance to get here, even if they respond immediately,” say officials of both the Shamokin Dam and Hummels Wharf squads. “We’re trying to cut the time it takes emergency medical help to reach the patient or victim to a minimum.”

And time is what the quick-response units are all about.

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