In 1936, by action of the Chatham Borough Council, an Emergency Squad was created as part of the Chatham Fire Department. On July 4,1938, its first ambulance, a Miller LaSalle, was placed in service. Eleven firemen comprised the group of founding fathers.
For more than ten years a small group of public-spirited, first-aid-trained firemen served the community twenty four hours a day with emergency and transportation service.
By 1949, the limited membership, which could be drawn only from within the Fire Department, was unable to continue daytime transportation service, demand for which had grown steadily.
In early 1951, the Borough Council was petitioned to authorize reorganization of the Squad as a unit independent of the Fire Department. As such, it could then draw on other Chatham citizens for membership.
On July 1, 1951, in response to the petition, the Chatham Emergency Squad, Inc. was established as the independent corporation it is today. New members were soon recruited and trained. Twenty-four hour transportation service, as well as the usual emergency service, was re-established. However, the Squad continued to operate out of the Firehouse.
Proposed additions of new equipment for the Fire Department and the anticipated need for a second ambulance for the Squad made it necessary to plan for new Squad quarters.
In early 1952, the first Chatham-wide Squad fund drive in 14 years was undertaken to finance a new and permanent home for the Squad. Using money provided by this drive, together with the physical efforts of many earnest Squad members and friends who contributed their construction skills, the present Borough building was finished and dedicated in December of 1954.
Also in December 1954, with money received from a general Squad fund drive, the second ambulance was acquired and put into service. The ambulance of the era was the “stretch limousine" configuration, comfortable but limited in space. Later Federal regulations decreed the use of the various truck types in use today, spacious, but rough riding!
Prior to 1959, membership in the squad was restricted to men, first drawn from the Fire Department and later recruited from among male citizens of Chatham Borough after the Squad became independent of the Fire Department. In 1959, as was the case in 1949, the Squad again faced the problem of insufficient personnel to handle the increasing load of daytime transportation requests. Many of the members worked out of town and were not available during daytime hours. As a result, the Squad decided to open its membership to women, with the first two women joining in November, 1959. By 1974, the ladies comprised half of the Squad membership, handling all work on an equal basis with male members.
Until 1967, Squad members were alerted in their homes by alarm bells which operated simultaneously with the familiar outdoor fire horn or “cow". Not only did this limit the types of response possible (no “area response"), but it also prevented Township citizens from joining the Squad. The Borough fathers who footed the bill would not permit installation of the bells outside the Borough.
Early in 1967, the present radio alerting system was adopted and each member was supplied with a portable radio. With this major change, the all important “area response" system was made possible and Township members became an important part of the Squad.
The year 1968 saw the slow beginnings of a major change in training. In that year, the Federal Highway Safety Act made it mandatory that the individual states set up training standards for ambulance personnel. In 1971, New Jersey adopted its own Highway Safety Act in compliance with the Federal law. New Jersey and several other states had outstanding first aid services, but the U.S. in general was lacking. With the New Jersey State First Aid Council taking a major part in pushing, pulling and guiding the New Jersey lawmakers, a program acceptable to the Federal and State Governments, as well as to New Jersey squads, was adopted. Many courses, once optional, became mandatory in the early ‘70s and a new Department of Health training course for “Emergency Medical Technicians" was developed. The early program included Red Cross training. In 1988, the Red Cross Course was phased out and all squad personnel are now required to take the Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) course, with appropriate continuing refreshers.
The next major change in Squad operations started taking form in late 1970s, when the desirability of the Township substation became increasingly evident. Traffic problems at times in the Borough and the potential for expanding Township population spurred the Squad to start planning. As a result of the outstanding efforts of many Squad members and with the help of generous citizens and the Borough and Township administrations, the new Township substation became a reality. It opened for business on August 9, 1982, with one ambulance garaged there. Two additional ambulances were stationed at the Borough Squad headquarters. A number of operating changes were required to accommodate the change, but essentially the Squad response to calls retained the features which had been successful over the years.
As the Borough and Township have grown, so have the responsibilities of the Squad. Population has greatly increased and the fine work of the Squad has been widely publicized. The number of emergency calls handled annually has grown from 22 in 1950 to approximately 1100 in recent years.
Long ago, the Chatham Emergency Squad became an indispensable community service to which many citizens owe their lives. New members join as older members retire. We strive to perfect first aid skills, exercise common sense, and further the cause of life saving and safety to the best of our ability.