The All-volunteer Triboro First Aid Squad (TBFAS) serving residents of Bloomingdale, Butler and Kinnelon continue to obey their unofficial motto.
Early in March during the initial surge in COVID19 cases in the state, New Jersey unfortunately saw several volunteer first aid squads either shut down or not be able to take COVID calls due to judgement or circumstance.
TBFAS under the leadership of President Justin Hill, formed a core group of volunteer squad members that either extended their regular assigned duty time or added a increase of hours and days for five consecutive months to make sure their neighbors and surrounding communities had coverage for medical, trauma and COVID19 calls. Justin Hill, Anish Kuriachen, Bill Sondermeyer, Amanda LoCicero, Matt Marletta, Annette Vanderhoff, Liz Szymanski, Diana Scardone, Dave Pandoscak, Skip Mullen, Hazel Whitty, Brian Hoeft, Lee Blay, and George Chernetz have been the mainstay of the squad during these uncertain times. We cannot thank them enough.
According to Hill, “We are here for anyone who needs help. We had very committed members who chose to ride for those who could not, they were dedicated to the functioning of the squad behind the scene.” Hill describes being scared initially because “we didn’t know at what point how sick you could get.” Hill also wanted to thank everyone in the community who supplied TBFAS with PPE. He said, “The generosity and ingenuity of all of the individuals that donated PPE supplies to us was inspiring and kept our spirits up during a very tumultuous time.”
Anish Kuriachen, an EMT and TBFAS member since 2018 agrees, “initially there was some fear, but the PPE we had, including donated 3D printer face shields made by, a local community resident plus the decontamination protocol of TBFAS, made me feel more comfortable.” The COVID team was trained to wear N-95 masks, face shields goggles or glasses and gowns or Tyvek suits. “
TBFAS answered and served the communities regardless of the nature of the dispatched call. “Even though the reason for the calls was more profound than the normal calls we usually have I joined the Squad to help people regardless of the situation and we did,” said Bill Sondermeyer, EMT and 27 year veteran of TBFAS. Sondermeyer believed the training and the PPE that was available to him were adequate for his protection when he went into patient’s homes, but he routinely saw “real fear” in the eyes of the patients and their caregivers.
According to, Amanda LoCicero EMT and 5 year veteran of TBFAS, “We saw quite a few COVID cases and I lost some close friends during it, but I also noticed the call volume would come in cycles—initially patients were concerned that they had it, then patients’ families called because the actual patients were afraid to go to the hospital and then we had calls from patients who had mental and physical responses to the stress of the entire COVID pandemic.”
TBFAS took the safety of its riding members and those they came in contact with very seriously. Matt Marletta, who volunteers on two squads, including TBFAS and has a paid position as an EMT found that, “A lot of people don’t understand that we can’t let our guard down and when we ride we have to think that every single person we come across could have COVID. We take precautions because we are just trying to protect ourselves so we can help you.”
Annette Vanderhoff, another TBFAS member, would like people to continue “to take COVID seriously until we get a true vaccine or cure—it is going to take some time”.
As the flu season begins and all scientific evidence points to another and perhaps longer wave of COVID calls for TBFAS in 2020 into 2021, the Ask is a simple one, according to Liz Szymanski, an EMT and 10 year veteran of TBFAS, “Keep wearing masks to reduce transmission, be careful and get tested.”
As to why they do it, Diana Scardone, a COVID Team driver who joined TBFAS in February 2020 echoed the team’s core spirit… “People need help and I can help.”
We salute all those who were on duty these past 7 months, but especially want to praise our new and young Members. Expectations and hope for the future rest on the premise that the young people have so much to offer society. TBFAS has the proof, as we learned when our new Members and Millennials answered the call after Covid19 struck. They accepted their responsibility effectively and with honor.
Tri-boro First Aid Squad is participating in National GIVING TUESDAY. Donations can be made directly to http://www.triborofirstaidsquad.org/donations