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Town Topics
April 1, 2020

First Aid and Rescue Squad Prepares for the Virus’ Peak

By Anne Levin

With cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) expected to peak during the next few weeks, Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad (PFARS) is gearing up for what could be unprecedented demand. An integral part of the team is Princeton High School graduate Bryan Hill, a volunteer with the squad and an emergency medical technician (EMT) who has two bachelor of science degrees and is a candidate for a doctorate in nursing.

Hill does a daily email briefing for members, culled from data he gathers from the daily updates by Gov. Phil Murphy, the Centers for Disease Control, and other sources. “I boil it down to what we need to be focusing on as a first aid squad,” he said last week. “I’ve been working countless hours, seven days a week, for the past two and a half weeks to make sure we’re ahead of the curve before we get this surge that is expected in mid-April.”

Heading infection control for the squad, Hill has been doing his best to keep members healthy. “His medical background makes him the ideal person for this,” said PFARS President Mark Freda. “And he has a relationship with the Public Health Department in town, which is key.”

Hill’s degree in public health has given him insight into containment strategies. His nursing degree is also coming in handy. “It has been very beneficial to me because I can see how the disease progresses, and see things we can be on the lookout for,” he said. “From that, with the rest of the team, we’ve developed a member screening tool. Members have to be checked before they go out. This way, we’re able to monitor for members coming in the door to assure that they’re healthy.”

Hill stresses now-familiar precautions that members of the public can take to keep themselves healthy.

“The most important thing is social distancing. Stay home if you can, avoid non-essential travel, wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and utilize our services when needed,” he said. “For those who certainly do need emergency services, we are adequately staffed to keep them well. Look out for shortness of breath, high fever for days, and fatigue. That could be a medical emergency we are able to assist with.”

Freda said last Friday that call volume at PFARS had actually dropped during the previous 10 days. With schools and businesses closed, there were fewer scenarios that might require assistance. But a surge is expected, and any EMTs interested in helping PFARS are encouraged to contact the squad. Public donations are also welcome, as extra funds are being spent for disinfecting and other practices.

“The members of the Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad are taking every possible precaution to protect our patients, their families, and our EMTs during this very difficult time,” reads a statement issued by the squad. “We review and update our procedures daily based on directives from federal, state, and local authorities. We also apply good judgment, often putting precautions into place before they are mandated. Residents should not hesitate to call 9-1-1 if they require emergency medical assistance. We are ready to respond if they need us.”