Members answer hundreds of thousands of calls, dedicate millions of hours annually

SAYREVILLE, NJ – In response to the growing need for trained emergency medical services personnel, Charles R. Measure – a former ambulance driver in France during World War I and a volunteer fireman in Belmar -- started the “Belmar First Aid & Safety Squad” in 1928.  It was the first volunteer first aid squad in the nation. 

By the following year, at least eight more such volunteer organizations had formed along the Jersey Shore.  Realizing that by pooling resources they could improve patient care, standardize and purchase equipment, and provide joint training, the members agreed in 1929 to form an alliance, the “New Jersey State First Aid Council” (NJSFAC).   

Eighty-five years later, the nonprofit NJSFAC represents nearly 300 first aid and rescue squads and more than 20,000 EMS volunteers throughout the state.   Its members donate millions of hours each year, answering hundreds of thousands of calls, staging drills, completing certification and refresher courses, raising funds, attending meetings and advocating for EMS volunteers in Trenton.  The volunteers respond 24/7, every day, including holidays, in all kinds of weather, and during man-made and natural disasters. 

Despite a steady decline in membership during the last few decades, the NJSFAC remains the largest organization of its kind throughout the U.S., according to Summit resident Howard Meyer, its president since 2013.

“The dedication is always there,” Meyer said.  “Even though many of our members are raising families, working multiple jobs, are in school, and honoring other obligations and commitments, they still find time to help their neighbors. 

“Their selflessness has kept the New Jersey State First Aid Council going, and the people of New Jersey well served, for more than eight decades,” he said.

Meyer listed several notable catastrophes during which NJSFAC volunteers responded:

Fire aboard the luxury liner Morro Castle off the Belmar coast (1934)

“Hindenburg” disaster in Lakehurst (1937)

First World Trade Center bombing (1993)

Hurricane Floyd (1999)

September 11 (2001)

Hurricane Sandy (2012)

“EMS volunteers are still the backbone of many response systems throughout the country, especially in New Jersey,” Meyer said.  “Without this core group of devoted individuals, there is no way the EMS system could handle the volume of calls received daily, never mind during disasters. 

“Volunteers are the past, present and future of EMS,” Meyer said.  “We’re looking forward to celebrating our 100th anniversary.”