Rescue squad anxious about competition from an Edison-based first aid squad

The Highland Park First Aid Squad (HPFAS) would like your support.

In a sign of how intensely the all-volunteer squad would like residents’ support, the HPFAS has peppered yards and the streets with plastic signs calling for support, and for keeping alternative ambulance service Chevra Hatzolah in Edison. The rival service has publicized its niche as the rescue service that is sensitive to and fully aware of Jewish cultural and religious customs.

Squad leaders did not respond to inquiries about the signs, but Councilwoman Elsie Foster-Dublin said the squad is concerned that the new service inadvertently could hurt its bottom line.

“There’s always a potential for loss of fund-raising revenues, because you have two groups competing for the same pool of money,” said the councilwoman.

The Highland Park First Aid Squad began its month-long support drive in November. November also is when Chevra Hatzolah opened for business and began promoting its services to the Jewish community in the Edison area — including worshipers at Congregation Ohav Emeth on Raritan Avenue and Congregation Anshe Emeth on South Third Avenue.

Councilwoman Foster-Dublin, who serves as the council’s emergency services liaison, saw it as a situation where donors who previously gave unreservedly to the Highland Park First Aid Squad might decide this year instead to give their donations either entirely to Chevra Hatzolah because of its cultural and religious sensitivity, or to split the donations between the two organizations.

“There’s always a potential for loss of donations, because you have two groups competing for the same pool of money,” she said.

Chevra Hatzolah of Edison Township is an all-volunteer ambulance service whose crew members are familiar with Jewish law. Located across the border from Highland Park in Edison, Chevra Hatzolah began operations early last month.

Borough officials had expressed some concern about unintended impact if residents call a private ambulance service like Chevra Hatzolah instead of 9-1-1. Under the 9-1-1 system, dispatchers at the Police Department not only send ambulances from the squad, but also police in squad cars. The call also creates a record of the emergency.

Call Chevra Hatzolah, and there is no longer a guarantee of that.

“How would we know? They’re calling a private service,” said Foster-Dublin. “We’ve gotten them to agree that while they were dispatching services they would contact our dispatcher and let us know. But that’s pretty much where we left it.”

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