Our History
Photo Credit: Ryan Durkin
The Chester Volunteer First Aid Squad originated in 1945 as a branch of the Chester Volunteer Fire Company #1 and membership was restricted to Fire Company members only. The Fire Company accepted a Ford station wagon from the Civil Defense that was converted to serve as an ambulance. In its first year, the squad handled 23 emergency calls.
In 1947, a Cadillac ambulance was purchased through the cooperation of Mr. Robert Cole and the older Ford station wagon was sold to the highest bidder. Emergency calls increased to 40 for the year.
In 1955, a base radio station and mobile sets for each piece of rolling equipment were purchased through the Civil Defense matching fund plan. The First Aid Squad also purchased an electric air horn to alert members of an emergency call.
In 1957, the First Aid Squad, with help from the Borough and Township of Chester purchased a new Cadillac ambulance. The squad handled 89 emergency calls for the year.
In 1964, the First Aid Squad purchased home receivers (plectrons) for all squad members to alert them of emergency calls.
In 1973, a new Cadillac ambulance was purchased which is still currently owned by the squad and shown in parades. The squad responded to 342 calls this year.
In the late 70's early 80's as call volumes continued to increase, it became necessary to find a better way to alert members for calls. Motorola introduced the Minitor pager, which could be worn on a members waistband and would activate for emergencies. Now members could be alerted to calls when they were away from home, without having to hear the alert horn.
In 1987, the squad became independent of the Fire Company and became the Chester First Aid Squad Inc. As a new organization starting at financial ground level, the Chester Lions Club generously donated a new $65,000 ambulance and membership was opened to any Chester resident.
In 2004, Chester Township acquired the "Highlands Ridge Park" (former Bell Labs/Telcordia property) on North Road. Chester Township generously offered a part of the main building on that property to the squad for use as a station. The squad moved from the firehouse annex to the building in March of 2005. The massive garage space was cleaned and refurbished with the help of numerous squad volunteers and the Morris County Sheriff's Labor Assistance Program (SLAP). The new building provided much needed space for storage and expansion, allowing the squad to continue to grow as call volumes and other demands increased.
In August 2006, the squad took delivery of a new ambulance. This new ambulance style provides more room in the patient area and much more reliable electrical components. In addition, the ambulance was equipped with an electric Power Lift stretcher and hydraulic oxygen cylinder lift, both of which significantly lower the risk of back injury to squad members. With this ambulance replacing the older one, a Support Unit was added to the fleet by converting the old ambulance. The Support Unit increased the squad’s ability to handle a wide variety of incidents, specifically fire scenes, where firefighters need to be monitored and rehabilitated while performing their dangerous duty.
In the fall of 2009 the squad joined the Chester Police and Fire Company in switching dispatch services from its longtime provider, Washington Township Police Communications to the Morris County Communication Center. The move put the squad on a county-wide radio system with a growing number of other municipalities.
In the squad’s continuing pursuit of providing better service, it has increasingly turned to technology to work more efficiently. The squad purchased laptop computers for each ambulance to electronically enter patient care reports and store vital medical information. Another system that was added to the squad’s technological tool belt is I Am Responding. This unique service allows members to use their cell phones to alert dispatchers, ambulances and other members of their status when responding to calls. It has reduced the squad’s response times to below the national average and cut down on unnecessary re-dispatches. Click here for a sample screenshot.
In 2011 the squad launched its “EMT’s on Bikes” program, placing a pair of EMT’s on two off road capable bicycles. They patrol areas subject to heavy crowd/traffic conditions to provide more rapid medical care when an ambulances arrival may be otherwise delayed. A nice side benefit is that it gives our members some exercise and allows us the opportunity to interact with the community a little more.
Today, the Chester First Aid Squad consists of approximately 50 volunteers who are EMTs (Emergency Medical Technicians), Emergency Responders, Cadets, Drivers and Associate Members. The Squad Membership is very diverse as some of its members are also nurses and paramedics, business executives, retirees and students. In 2017 the squad handled almost 900 emergency calls, enjoying every opportunity to help those in need.