KEYPORT, NJ - Young emergency medical service providers from New Jersey and New York battled over bandages, splints and car wrecks all in good fun as part of the 4th Annual Keyport First Aid Cadet Competition.
The day-long event held June 10 in Keyport featured 115 competitors in 33 teams, who participated in events designed to test their abilities in basic and advanced skill categories, which included taking patient’s vital signs, cardiac arrest, CPR and for some with advanced abilities, removing a patient from a mangled car.
“They seem to be improving every year, really,” said Keyport First Aid Chief Ken Krohe, who spearheaded the competition. “They seem to know a lot more. They seem to be preparing themselves a lot better for the teams that are returning.”
Krohe said the event has grown year to year, with more teams participating and more additional assets on hand. Indeed, when not working on their skills, participants were able to explore assets from the New Jersey EMS Task Force, the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office, Office of Emergency Management, a helicopter from the Monmouth Ocean Hospital Service Corporation (MONOC) and equipment from agencies around the state. Organizers also worked hard to provide realistic settings, including incorporating an ICS staging process.
“This is important because you can bring them down here, into a setting like this, and they get to see all the different phases of EMS, the basic, the ALS level, and they get to see the specialized equipment we have here,” said Mike Scibetti, a Deputy EMS Coordinator for the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office, Office of Emergency Management. “EMS is a team sport across the board so it’s important that they come in here and they work as a team and they train as a team.”
Throughout the day, teams moved from room to room at the Keyport Elementary School, where evaluators were set up to put competitors through a series of skills assessments. In each room, patients, made up too look like they were suffering from severe injuries, were on the floor and competitors were asked to treat their wounds. All along, evaluators provided details about the injuries.
Planning for each year’s event starts after the last one ends. That work doesn’t end until the day is over. For team of professionals that put the event together, that means more than a few sleepless nights. Krohe estimated he slept four hours the night before. “The preparation the night before, a little bit tossing and turning that everything is going to go smoothly,” he says.
A key aspect of the competition, explained Krohe, is that after the skills are completed evaluators – who are active EMS providers - offer suggestions on how to improve the care the cadets provide in the future as full-fledged first responders working in communities around the New Jersey and New York.
“Most of them really enjoy it and thought it was a nice day,” Krohe said. “And they learned a lot, which is what we’re trying to do. It’s not like an EMT test.”
Scibetti was impressed with the skills he saw on display from the cadets, who range in age from 14 through 18.
“The advanced teams, the skill set was on par with some of their adult counterparts,” said Scibetti. “They learned from their weaknesses today, which is important because a controlled environment, like this, this is where you want to learn from your weaknesses. I instilled in them today that the mistakes were all lessons learned.”
Scibetti spent most of the competition as part of the team evaluating advanced teams tasked with removing patients from car wrecks.
“I had one team ask me if I was in a car accident if I would let them work on me. I said ‘absolutely,’” Scibetti said. “They demonstrated to me they would do no further harm, they demonstrated they could think outside the box. And they demonstrated they could think on their feet and not get rattled.”
New Jersey EMS Council President Joe Walsh was also on hand for the event and helped present awards at the end of the day.
The South Orange Rescue Squad team earned the Walter McKinley Memorial Trophy, which was presented in honor of the late former president of the New Jersey EMS Council and a 55-year volunteer EMS provider. In the basic category, 1st place went to the Lambertville A team, 2nd went to High Bridge Emergency Squad A team, and 3rd place went to Mahwah EMS. In the advanced category, 1st place went to South Orange, 2nd to Glen Oaks Volunteer Ambulance Corps, and 3rd went to Mahwah EMS.
“I really have a lot of pride in our youth as well as our regular members,” Walsh told the participants. “I just hope that you really continue on with this viable service.”
Indeed, that’s one of the goals of the competition, Krohe says. He wants it to foster interest in EMS, particularly in the volunteer ranks of service, where getting people to participate is a challenge.
“I just enjoy working with the youth. It’s just fun, it really is,” says Krohe. “To look at their faces, they’re having a good time and they’re doing something that’s meaningful. They’re doing something that could help them, help their families and their communities in the future. A lot of these kids go on into the medical field.
“I’m hoping we’ll retain some of these people because we’re hurting,” Krohe adds. “Volunteer EMS is hurting. People don’t have a lot of time any more to put into it. The more we can get involved, hopefully, it will sustain the future of volunteerism.”