A Brief History of the Lakeland Emergency Squad
1939 – 2018
“Curiosity to explore lake depths” was reported in the Newark Evening News as being the reason for founding the Lakeland Emergency Squad. That was only partly true. The founders, looking ahead, considered this the first step to what we see today. At that time, there was a void in emergency underwater recovery services, whether it was personal property or that of a drowning victim. The Squad was the first volunteer group in the United States to use diving gear for the recovery of those victims. The first diving gear was a helmet made from a gas tank of a car with air supplied by hand pumps. The surprising thing was that it worked! Word of the novel group spread, and by 1940 the Squad’s services were requested by officials from a wide area. Thus, the Squad continued to expand. The helmet gave way to back-pack entry suits and that led to SCUBA.
By the end of 1939, plans were underway to expand into other forms of rescue. Equipment was made, borrowed, begged for, and sometimes purchased toward that end. This continued expansion has gone on to this day. When problems can be foreseen, the Squad will prepare for them before they happen.
A major expansion occurred in 1949 when the membership voted to inaugurate ambulance and first aid service. This was operational on January 1, 1950, and since then the bulk of the Squad’s activity has been in this field.
The group was originally named the Cranberry Lake Salvage Unit. This was later changed to the Lakeland Volunteer Salvage Unit when it incorporated. The name was changed again in 1954 to Lakeland Emergency Squad as that name better described the combination of first aid and rescue services provided to the public.
In 1939, the total membership was fifteen, mostly teenagers. World War II drained most of the membership, and during that period operations were limited. After 1946, the returning veterans resumed active roles in the Squad, and from there membership grew and remained constant at about forty. It is not clear why the membership has not increased in proportion to the growing population of our coverage area.
Housing the Squad equipment was originally a simple matter. As time went on, the volume and value of this equipment expanded and the housing problem assumed major proportions. The first housing was in the long row of garages at the entrance to South Shore Road in Cranberry Lake.
Later, it was moved to Paterson’s building (the present site of Lynn’s Nissan). Ground was broken for the present day headquarters in the fall of 1956, and the Squad moved into its own new building the following year. With the exception of the roofing and heating, this building was constructed entirely with volunteer labor. The building has since been renovated and expanded four times. In 1981, a major addition of three vehicle bays was completed. In that same year, a second building was dedicated in Andover Township at the corner of Goodale Road and Route 206 (present day Goodale Sub-station).
In the first year of operations, the Squad answered 13 calls (compared to today’s over 1,200 per year). From 1939 to 1979, approximately 17,000 calls were answered; and from 1979 to 2008, approximately 21,000 calls have been answered by the Squad.
Initially, the Squad equipment was carried in private vehicles. In 1940, a 1928 Ford was purchased and sold without ever seeing active service. In 1947, a 1926 Hudson fire truck was purchased by the Squad, converted, and put into service. The first ambulance was an early 1930s Studebaker. The ambulances and the rescue truck were periodically replaced as the years went on. As the demands on the Squad increased, additional vehicles and equipment were added. Presently, the Squad operates four ambulances, one heavy rescue truck, and one first response / incident command vehicle.
During the early years, the Squad was financed by member dues, fines, and donations. By 1946, the financial needs increased so much that the public was asked to help. Municipal and County appropriations soon followed. Today, the Squad depends on the generosity of our three towns and our annual fund drive.
Ever since the diving helmet was constructed, the Squad has prided itself in the progressive training and service it has provided to all in need. This commitment to excel in our field has led to many “firsts”; from the first underwater recovery unit to use divers as a practice; the first squad to be trained outside the British Empire by the Order of St. John (Canada); the first squad to conduct a rescue school in New Jersey; the first squad in the Country to have a registered EMT; the first squad in New Jersey to have a first response vehicle; and one of the first two squad in New Jersey to carry defibrillators.
Since its inception, Lakeland Emergency Squad has been at the forefront of emergency care and always using that knowledge to assist our fellow man. This philosophy continues to this day. The Squad looks at the past to gain knowledge and guidance to meet the demands of the future. In 2014, we proudly celebrated our seventy-fifth year of service!
On October 1, 2016 the Squad went live with electronic patient care reporting, using mobile tablet computers to better enhance the care we provide to our patients. All four BLS units were outfitted with GPS-enabled wifi modems allowing their location to be tracked at all times by our regional dispatch centers.
Early 2017 brought additional operational changes to the Squad. For several years leading up to this point, members had been mulling over the decision to begin an insurance billing program to help cover the rising costs of training, vehicle maintenance, fleet and equipment replacement/upgrades, insurance, building refurb, etc. On February 10, 2017, Lakeland EMS became a State Licensed BLS provider with the NJ Department of Health, Office of Emergency Medical Services, thus changing our business model to include insurance billing for patients we transport. For the first time in the Squad’s history, 2017 also saw the remount of ambulances instead of purchasing new, completed through our longtime partnership with VCI Emergency Vehicles of Berlin, NJ. Both of our 2003 Horton units were upgraded to 2016 Ford F-series chassis, the first truck-body ambulances the Squad had purchased in roughly 25 years. To close out 2017, after many years with Sparta Police Dispatch handling our Byram-based incidents, Lakeland and the other public safety agencies in Byram migrated to Sussex County Communications on December 13th, 2017.
In 2018, Lakeland completed another technology upgrade to start the year. By mid-January, the BLS fleet was equipped with mobile CAD software from Sussex County Communications delivered on Panasonic Toughbook computers mounted in the cabs of the ambulances, allowing real-time incident data and mapping to be provided to the crews at the click of a button.
Founding Members of the Lakeland Emergency Squad
Charles A. Johnson
George B. Johnson
Patricia (Crotty) Sutton
Today, the Lakeland Emergency Squad proudly serves Andover Borough, Andover Township, and Byram Township. Our first due coverage area is approximately 50 square miles of southern Sussex County, where over 15,000 people reside, about 10% of the County’s population. We provide mutual aid to the surrounding towns including Newton, Stanhope, Netcong, Hopatcong, Frankford, Fredon, Stillwater, Green, Lafayette, Allamuchy, Hampton, and Sparta.
Primary Coverage Area Map