NJ EMS Task Force members came together this week for their annual team meeting at a firehouse in New Jersey. They left after an evening of inspiration, encouragement, hope, and repeated reminders that those in emergency services aren’t in the field for fame but rather to change the lives of others.

“Fame is what people did for themselves. Greatness is what they did for others,” said guest speaker Gian Paul Gonzalez. “You’re not in this room for fame. Greatness doesn’t go viral. But that doesn’t change the fact that it changes the course of history.”

Gonzalez capped an evening highlighted by conversations with Mike Bascom, chairman of the non-profit NJ EMS Task Force, New Jersey State Police Col. Patrick Callahan, Dana Johnson, assistant commissioner of the NJ Department of Health, and H. Mickey McCabe, one of the four original founders of the organization.

“Commit yourself to being the member you intended to be when you applied to be part of this team,” said Bascom.

Bascom outlined the NJEMSTF accomplishments in the last few years, including the organization’s significant role in New Jersey’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic –  a mission that continues today. Part of that mission included working with the NJ Department of Health to develop and execute a plan to transfer over 850,000 COVID-19 vaccines to areas where the doses were critically needed.

Bascom also highlighted the change in the organization to a 501 (c) 3 non-profit, which operates on grants and private donations. Bascom said the NJEMSTF would soon launch a fund drive to raise much needed funding to maintain this mission-critical organization.

New Jersey State Police Col. Patrick Callahan compared the NJ EMS Task Force members to rivets on a bridge and how they create a sturdy structure working together. He challenged members to “always be striving to move the needle.”

Callahan noted that those in EMS often see and experience things most people never face.

“Bounce forward; you can’t go back,” Callahan said.

“Never forget the whys that you took this job,” Callahan added. “Don’t forget the why. Sometimes we get lost.”

The NJ EMS Task Force was formed in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks when in the weeks and months after the tragedy, EMS leaders from around New Jersey gathered to develop a plan for an organization to train for and coordinate a statewide EMS response to any disaster. Today, The New Jersey EMS Task Force is an award-winning organization used as a model nationwide.

In 2023, the NJ EMS Task Force was part of the statewide response to several wildfires impacting thousands of acres of land and floods that required the evacuation of assisted living facilities while also developing and updating the disaster response plans.

Johnson praised the NJ EMS Task Force for its work, saying it was an example of how people coming for a common goal can do so much. She noted that because of the NJ EMS Task Force’s vaccine transfer system, “450 unique areas of New Jersey got the vaccines that wouldn’t have been able to get it otherwise.”

“You always maintain communications and professionalism,” Johnson told attendees.

“When it all comes apart at a local level….you are called,” McCabe told attendees. A single call mobilizes the Task Force, he said.

He urged members to get to know each other and the organizations around them.

“You need to know the people around you. You need to know what they can do,” McCabe said, reminding members that what those in EMS do is something most people couldn’t handle.

Jennifer McCarthy, Vice President of the Board, presented Distinguished Awards to NJEMSTF member Terry Hoben and Dr. David Adinaro for their service, work with the organization and their overall impact on the field of EMS.

“Dr. Adinaro opened opportunities for the NJEMSTF to become fully actualized during the public health crisis in New Jersey,” McCarthy said. “We are forever grateful for the funding support and uses of our vital organization that Dr. Adinaro facilitated.”

She added, “As an original member and host agency, as well as a founding member of the Heli Base module, Terry’s contribution is long-lasting and important to the work we achieve every day for New Jersey and beyond.”

There were also brief discussions within the NJEMTF’s various team modules, ranging from medical operations, communications, staging, logistics, public information, finance, and planning; scheduling upcoming module meetings and training sessions for preparation towards an annual Base of Operation Exercise scheduled for October 2023.

Gonzalez reminded members that their work requires a commitment where success is not guaranteed.

“Being committed is not a feeling,” he said, adding it’s not a slogan on a T-shirt.  “It’s a commitment.”

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