It is my honor to present to you this month’s cover story on The West Essex First Squad, especially at a time when their services and support are invaluable to our community above and beyond regular times, due to their increased work-load, in response to Covid-19. I was hosted at the squad building on Bloomfield Avenue, originally built by volunteer squad members, by our resident volunteer Luke Pryor (Crew Chief, EMT), who introduced me to Captain David Black, President Peter Nancoz, and organized our photo shoot with the evening shift.
We were joined by Jeff Sutherlin (Sr. Night Lieutenant, EMT), Matthew Adams (EF resident), Patrick Nancoz (EMT), Julia Adamowicz (NC resident), Thomas Salandra (Crew Chief), Kara Nancoz (Crew Chief, EMT), Caroline Murnane (EMT, NC resident), Meghan Malagiere (EMT), and Tyler Romaine.
The West Essex First Aid Squad (WEFAS) is an all-volunteer organization providing emergency medical services (EMS) and light rescue services to the New Jersey municipalities of Caldwell, Essex Fells, Fairfield, North Caldwell and West Caldwell. WEFAS is also a member of the NJ EMS Task Force. These services are provided at no cost to the residents.
WEFAS members are NJ certified emergency medical technicians (EMTs). The volunteer members donate over 8,000 man-hours of their time annually responding to calls, in addition to time they put in for training and practice.
They are able to do all this because of the generous donations of time and money from the community. Approximately 80% of the costs of providing first aid services comes from direct donations from the residents and businesses of our communities while 14% comes from municipal government donations.
Meeting the Squad members and speaking with them about their protocols, equipment, shifts, and care they provide was an impressive experience for me. These volunteers are truly unique individuals who have love and a desire to serve at the core of their hearts. They dedicate themselves over 100% to the Squad, so much so that many of them end up at the Squad building even when it’s not their shift, including on special holidays and their own birthdays. Their dedication is beyond commendable.
Volunteers can join the training program once they are 16 years old, and they can grow through the ranks as they gain more experience, training and certifications. It is quite impressive that once dedicated to the squad, many volunteers stay with it, and serve for many years. Some are 2nd generation, and some have more than one parent who served in the Squad. With so many hours spent at the squad building, preparing, training, and responding to calls, it is no coincidence that volunteers develop deep and meaningful friendships with each other, and become family. Spending the early part of the evening with them, it was easy to see their comradery, trusting and honest communication and devotion.
The Squad has close to 100 members, of various ages and diverse backgrounds, with one common passion: Service!
Captain David Black says:
“I am required to take additional training and classes as well as recertify every three years. I have a local accounting practice and am able to carve out time to volunteer a 12-hour shift once a week and an additional 12-hour weekend shift once a month. You may ask why I would do all this without being compensated, and I will tell you that for me, there is no greater gift than the gift of service. I have been fortunate in my life and live in a beautiful community. This is my way to show gratitude and to utilize the skills I have learned, whether it is holding the hand of a patient, bandaging a child or saving a life. I volunteer with other members of WEFAS who have become my close friends. Whether you join at 16 years old or 46 years old, age does not matter. We have become one family that values service to the community in a place that we call home.”
If you wish to donate and support WEFAS, there is no better time than now! Your support will go a long way and come back to serve our community!
If you might be interested in volunteering as a Squad member, they are always open to new recruits. Let your heart be your guide if this kind of selfless service is for you, and if the answer is yes, give them a call.
Remember, for a true medical emergency, do not directly call the squad - always call 911, who will direct you as necessary.
To get more information about the WEFAS and donations, please go to https://westessexfas.org.
Thank you WEFAS! We are grateful for all that you do every single day and night and for keeping a watch over our community during the greatest times of need!
This article and my original photos have been published in the Essex Fells Magazine and North Caldwell Magazine in their spring and summer 2020 issues.
Top row left to Right
Jeff Sutherlin- Senior Night Lieutenant, EMT
Mathew Adams- Essex Fells Resident
Patrick Nancoz- EMT
Julia Adamowicz, North Caldwell Resident
Peter Nancoz- President, Lieutenant EMT
Thomas Salandra- Crew Chief, EMT
Bottom Row Left to Right
Luke Pryor Crew Chief, EMT Essex Fells Resident
Kara Nancoz, Crew Chief, EMT
Caroline Murnane, EMT North Caldwell Resident