To the rescue High School's ambulance christened at `wet down' ceremony
by Tom Jennemann and Diana Schwaebles
May 24, 2005 | 2694 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Hoboken High School recently became the first school in New Jersey, and one of the first in the country, to receive its own fully equipped ambulance.

The ambulance, which was donated by the Blairstown Ambulance Corps, will be used by the school's Emergency Response Team, an after-school club where students learn what to do when an emergency arises. Also, the district recently received a $26,000 federal Youth Organized for Disaster Action grant, which will pay to stock the ambulance.

A great opportunity

According to Joseph Miele, the district's coordinator of service learning, he had heard that Blairstown Ambulance Corps was about to sell one of its older ambulances, and he asked if they would donate it rather than sell it.

Even though Blairstown had received five offers on the vehicle, they saw the intrinsic value of donating it to Hoboken High's Emergency Response Team.

Two weeks ago, after the ambulance was fully detailed and ready to be put into service, members of Blairstown were in Hoboken for a ceremonial "wet down," which is the typical christening of an ambulance or a fire truck. This tradition consists of hosing down the vehicle, which is followed by a by a big party.

Curtis Lambert, president of the Blairstown Ambulance Corps, presented the title of the vehicle to Miele and the Hoboken High students.

"We're happy to be down here," said Lambert. "It's a worthy cause. I'm more than happy to donate it."

According to Miele, the ambulance will mostly be used as a training vehicle, but it is fully insured. First to respond to any accident will be the regular Hoboken Volunteer Ambulance Corp. If they can't respond, then there is a mutual aid agreement between surrounding communities for them to respond. If neither group is able to respond, the ERT will be called, said Miele. Also, if there is a major regional disaster, the EMT can respond.

Mayor David Roberts, who was at the wet down, said that the Emergency Response Team is an excellent program.

"I'm very grateful to the town of Blairstown for the generous donation. I'm proud of the students for participating in the program under the direction of Joe Miele," Roberts said. "Since Sept. 11, we have all been preparing for emergency situations. It's great to see people getting involved."

The origin of the ERT

The Hoboken ERT is a unique program that was born out of tragedy. On Sept. 11, 2001 two seniors, Helen Yao and Michele Martinovich, volunteered to go down to the emergency triage that was set up at the PATH station. They spent the day running water and stringing IVs for the medical professionals.

At the time they admitted that they didn't really know what to do or how they could help, but they knew that they had to do something.

For their civic-minded selflessness, the two received a Youth Star of Life award from the state's Department of Health.

In the days following the tragedy, the two seniors approached Miele, the school district's coordinator of service learning, and brainstormed ideas on how high school students could prepare for any type of emergency. What they came up with was the idea to form an ERT made up entirely of high school students, so if disaster ever does strike again, the students and staff at the city's public schools will know exactly how to respond.

Now, the 15 members of the team stay after school one day a week learning CPR and advanced first aid techniques. At they end of the year, their efforts will be rewarded with endorsements for CPR proficiency and First Response Certification from the American Red Cross. While they are credited with receiving 50 hours of training, the time they spend is actually much more, said Miele.

In addition to their basic training, they have been mentored by doctors at St. Mary Hospital, especially Dr. Anglo Caprio, St. Mary's medical disaster coordinator.

The students also have received training from Tom Molta and the Hoboken Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

Just recently, they participated in the TOPOFF 3 (Top Officials 3), the most comprehensive terrorism response exercise ever conducted in the country. During the drill, victims of a faux plague were shuttled to their respective Point of Dispensing (POD) sites, including St. Mary Hospital in Hoboken and New Jersey City University in Jersey City.

The patients had to be examined, diagnosed, treated, medicated and released as fast as possible, with the goal of 1,000 per hour receiving proper medication - in this case, either Cipro or Doxycycline. Members of Hoboken High School's ERT assisted in admissions, and helped doctors with whatever they needed.

A future career

The high school ERT can be a good stepping stone for a future in medicine. Scott Durlester, an EMT for 14 years, said, "It gives the kids a chance to learn responsibility. The medical field is a good field to go into nowadays."

Even though the program is relatively new, several students are already succeeding at the next level.

Leroy Loehwing is currently enrolled at the School of Nursing at Rutgers and Gabrielle Gomez is pre-med at Montclair State. In this year's class, 18-year old Ivana Moffitt, who is graduating this year, says she wants to major in pre-med.

Hands-on learning

The ERT is just one part of the school district's service learning program, which is designed to give student hands-on interaction with the community.

Miele described service learning as a teaching/learning strategy that integrates meaningful community service with instruction and reflection to enrich the learning experience. Another example of a service learning program in the school district is the 4-H club, which is a national program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The students learn about plants and flowers, and they give area seniors and veterans tours of different blooming gardens throughout the state.
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