Hampton Emergency Squad, which provides emergency medical care to Hampton, Glen Gardner and the Township of Bethlehem, will merge with South Branch Emergency Services on Jan. 1, leaders of both organizations said.
The resulting organization will operate under the South Branch name and cover all areas currently served by both entities.
âWe’re very excited about this,â said Hampton chief Penny Tampier. âPeople are going to get better service. “
Residents served by Hampton are already familiar with the South Branch, with paramedics providing daytime coverage from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Currently, Hampton volunteers are responding to nightly emergencies from their homes, making their way first to the station and then to the call. After amalgamation, serving squad members will respond directly to emergencies.
âResponse times should be much faster,â Tampier said.
A decline in the number of volunteers – gradual for years and recently brutal – has led the leaders of the Hampton Emergency Squad to seek the merger, Tampier said. The gradual decline in volunteer numbers and daytime availability is an issue facing all volunteer emergency services, and this is what led Hampton to seek out a day coverage partnership nearly two decades. T
By 2021, Hampton’s volunteer roster has dropped sharply. Some volunteers have moved or returned to university.
âWe want to be able to give the same high level of care that we have always been able to in the past, the level of care that people expect from us, and this merger allows that to happen,â Tampier said.
Circumstances similar to those encountered by Hampton led to the establishment of South Branch Emergency Services in July 2020, when the former High Bridge Emergency Squad and Clinton First Aid & Rescue Squad merged. Hampton then considered merging as well.
The Clinton-High Bridge merger took years of work, said South Branch president Sharon Burham, but that effort included a framework to make further mergers much simpler, allowing this second merger to take place in less than half the time.
âWe knew that more ambulance companies would probably want to be part of the southern branch in the future, and we planned it,â she said.
âThe Hampton-South Branch merger means an increasingly seamless regional service,â said South Branch chief Frank Setnicky. âThe merger means we have more people spread over more locations in northern Hunterdon County. We can send one or more crews to where they are needed without delay, which is especially important in larger emergencies. “
The mergers and the resulting regional approach also create other opportunities for strategic use of resources and economies of scale, noted EMS Deputy Head of Southern Branch Bucky Buchanan.
Tampier noted that Hampton leaders have spoken to the mayors of the towns they cover.
âThey have always been 100% behind us, and they always will be 100%,â she said. âThey applauded us for doing this, for taking care of their citizens. “
Because South Branch – and before it existed, Clinton First Aid – provided day service to Hampton for nearly two decades, the people Hampton serves already know South Branch and its paramedics. Volunteers from both organizations and paid paramedics from the Southern Branch also know each other well, noted Setnicky and Tampier.
âIt’s a tight-knit community and we’ve known and worked together for decades,â Setnicky said. âWe have always reacted together to larger incidents,â Tampier said. âWe’re just going to answer together all the time now. “
Hampton Emergency Squad was incorporated in 1957 and the important role played by its volunteers will not be forgotten.
The Hampton Squad Building will remain in service as the South Branch Emergency Services Hampton Station. These are two ambulances and an emergency response unit will also remain in service, but with new stickers from the southern branch. Hampton’s active volunteer paramedics have already started training and arranging calls with existing members of the South Branch. Hampton’s life members – long-time volunteers who remain with the organization even if they no longer respond to emergencies – will become life members of the South Branch.
Artifacts from the organization’s history will be preserved, as will those of High Bridge and Clinton. Each person’s articles will be displayed at the four South Branch stations.
Tampier has volunteered at Hampton for 42 years. As much as she and the rest of Hampton’s seven active volunteer paramedics enjoy what they do, taking multiple shifts each week and taking on leadership roles – in addition to work, family and other responsibilities – can be difficult at times. . The amount of work required of each volunteer can make it difficult to recruit other volunteers.
Tampier hopes more people from Hampton, Glen Gardner and Bethlehem Township will join her and the other current members of the Hampton Emergency Team as new South Branch volunteers.
âThe more of us who participate, the fewer hours each of us must devote to having the truly remarkable and life-changing experience of serving our communities as a volunteer paramedic,â she said.
Those interested in becoming a Southern Branch volunteer can visit its website for more information.