Main Content

news

FIFTY YEARS OF EMERGENCY MEDICAL SERVICE - LIVING THROUGH 60 YEARS OF CHANGE A Provider’s Story

By Eskil S. Danielson, Correspondent | May 04, 2020 | NEW JERSEY

Story No. 050420104

NOTE: Pre-hospital emergency care has come a long way in the past sixty years. I have
been fortunate to have experienced the birth and growth of the EMS system that has been
on the cutting edge of all kinds of emergencies and disasters, including the coronavirus or
Covid-19 we are experiencing today. This is my story of 60 years in pre-hospital care and
50 years in Emergency Medical Services.

Early influences: Sonny Danielson, my father, began his volunteer fire service as a
student in Dover H.S. A group of students in the early 1930’s joined a service group
affiliated with the Dover Fire Department. When there was a serious fire in town, they
would be released from school to assist with outside duties at a fire scene. Dad continued
on to become a full member of DFD and served through college (UPenn/Wharton) and
after returning as a disabled veteran after WWII. He went on to be chief of the Denville
FD. Both fire departments also provided first aid service to their respective communities
and continue to do so today. I began to go on emergency calls and fires with Dad from 14
although I couldn’t join the fire department until I was 21.

However, in 1960, I joined Boonton Heavy Rescue CD-DC affiliated with Boonton
Kiwanis. Then, as a 17 year old freshman at Lehigh U., I was able to take American Red
Cross Standard/Advanced First Aid and Instructor’s courses in Bethlehem, PA. I also
developed a ‘mascot-like’ relationship with the career, City of Bethlehem FD. In lieu of
conducting first aid training for the firefighters, the chief permitted me to study in his
bunk room and to ride as an ambulance attendant. I also conducted first aid training for
the Denville FD as soon as I became a member and I was elected first aid lieutenant in
my first year. (I was awarded my Bachelor’s Degree in Government from Lehigh in
1964.)

Pre-EMS: When I joined the Chatham Borough Police Department in 1966, I also joined
the Chatham FD and Chatham Emergency Squad, separate organizations. The Red Cross
first aid program experienced the first significant training upgrade in the mid-60’s. That
upgrade was mouth-to-mouth resuscitation followed a couple of years later by ‘closed
cardiac compressions.’ Both the American Red Cross (ARC) and the American Heart
Association (AHA) dubbed the training ‘Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation’ - CPR. I soon
became certified by both the ARC and AHA as a CPR instructor.

1

“How could you be an effective member of three first response services?” was a question raised when they learned of my police/fire/squad memberships. On many occasions, at
least two of the three roles complemented each other. All three came into play on one
scene. CFD rolled out early one morning to a fully-involved residence with entrapment. I
lived two blocks of fire HQ and rolled on the first engine while packing up. On arrival,
my fellow police officers pointed to a window at the rear where they had last seen a male
and urged him to jump. He didn’t. My entry partner was Fire Captain Joe Marts. We were
advised the occupants were a family of five - parents and three children - all still inside.

Joe and I laddered the rear second floor window and entered for an initial search while
the bulk of the fire was still downstairs to the front. Steam from the fire attack had risen
and caught the man killing him and driving Joe and I to the window for cool air. When
we could continue our search, Joe checked the front bedroom and I checked the
bathroom, where I saw what appeared to be three forms in the bathtub. Thankfully, the
forms were melted shower curtains. Joe called for me to assist him with another body in
the front bedroom. I took off my sticky/melted glove and checked for a pulse. Finding a
pulse, we moved the person to the window and yelled for the aerial ladder to help us get
the person, a woman, out to safety where she could be resuscitated. After taking her to
the awaiting squad personnel, we worked vigorously to perform our new skill, CPR,
reviving her and transporting her to Overlook Hospital, Summit.

Once the fire was out, I got my detective’s gear and began my investigation. Thankfully,
the information about children was off by one house. The woman survived to live with
the fact that her smoking on the downstairs couch setting it afire killed her spouse.

New Jersey was on the cutting edge of pre-hospital care in the late ‘60’s, but other states
lagged far behind. In the late’60’s, we were driving home from Florida via US 1 and an
incomplete I-95 when we witnessed a MVA on US 1 in Georgia. A single vehicle ran off
the road and into a farm house near the road. I grabbed my first aid kit and accessed the
vehicle finding a single occupant, a female driver. She was semi-conscious and had some
visible head wounds that I tended to while the residents called for an ambulance. Within a
few minutes, a far from modern wrecker arrived and the driver asked me what he could
do to help. I told him that we needed an ambulance. He immediately went to the wrecker
and drove off. Within about five minutes, a hearse arrived with a siren wailing. The
former wrecker driver jumped out, wrangled the stretcher out and came to me for the
patient. As we put the patient in the hearse, I offered to stay with her but before I could
even give him a report of my findings, the multi-tasking driver drove off, siren wailing
with the patient alone in the back. Hearses and hospital based ambulances had long
become passe’ in New Jersey but not in rural Georgia.

2

Early EMS: In about 1966, in order to try to mitigate highway fatalities, Congress
passed the National Traffic and Motor Vehicle Safety Act. The intent was to come up with a nationwide program to reach a goal of uniform traffic signs and signals, traffic laws, engineering standards, vehicle improvements and crash injury management. For
years, the Ohio State Police produced some of the most graphic training films on
highway accidents called “Mechanized Death.” The films were regularly used in police
and fire academies during first aid training. Ohio State University eventually became the
consultant for the US Department of Transportation in developing the sub-goals of the
1966 act.

In 1970, after in-house research and development, Ohio State reached out for college
professors to review their drafts and make recommendations for improvements. I had
become the full-time professor and coordinator of law enforcement education at County
College of Morris in 1969 and was asked by my division head if I was interested in going
to Atlanta, GA., to participate in the Ohio State project. Thus, in March 1970, I flew to
Atlanta for a week as a consultant to Ohio State, first on uniform signs and signals and
then transferred to crash injury management. In the CIM sessions, we critiqued a ‘green
book’ which was a draft document. It later provided the content of the ‘orange book’, the
first ‘Crash Injury Management’ textbook soon to be published under the Highway Safety
Act of 1970 by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons as ‘Care and
Transportation of the Sick and Injured.’ Ohio State recommended CIM for law
enforcement and the ‘orange book,’ dubbed Emergency Medical Training, for emergency
squad personnel, volunteer and career. It officially changed to EMT in 1971.

If states wanted to participate in Highway Safety funding for infrastructure, roads and
bridges, they had to adopt EMT as the minimum training for motor vehicle accident
responders. All municipalities were required to have an EMS provider.

EMS: Having spent an exhaustive week critiquing CIM/EMT, I took the first EMT
course offered in northern NJ at Overlook Hospital. It was coordinated by Respiratory
Therapist Joe Barefoot and was a solid presentation as had been the CPR courses he had
presented a few years before. Enter the EMT certification process. Dr. Marie Sena, NJ
Department of Health Commissioner, took the reins of the indirectly required EMT
program and she did not recognize the Overlook program nor others that had started
around the state.

By the time the certified NJ program was up and running, I had become chief of police in
Byram Township and a member of the Lakeland Emergency Squad. A group of Lakeland
members signed up to take the 80 hour EMT course Denville C-1, C-2 at Morris County
Votech. About the time of our completion in 1972, the captain of the Newton First Aid
Squad, Bill Crane, who was not an EMT, was imploring Dr. Sena to permit him to
coordinate EMT training for Sussex County.

3

Eventually, Dr. Sena reached out to see if I would be able to coordinate Sussex County
EMT courses. After discussing the opportunity to teach EMT with my wife, I cut back on
first aid and CPR training and coordinated EMT training through 1976 when I turned it over to George B. Johnson and Carl Lippincott of Lakeland and the cadre of instructors
we had. (After a few courses, George and Carl subsequently turned the program over to
Jack and Edna Deacon.) (In 1975, I was awarded a Master’ Degree in Criminal Justice
from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY.)

Getting Published: In 1977, I was honored to attend the 104th Session, FBI National
Academy in Quantico, VA. Considered the best program for law enforcement executives
in the country, the NA academic program was in two parallel tracts. One was skills
training which included firearms, physical training, crime scene analysis, etc. The other
tract, accredited by the University of VA, was more academic such as psychology,
criminology, sociology, statistics, management, etc. I took the latter at the graduate level
since I already held a master’s degree in criminal justice.

What an opportunity to do research on my favorite subject - police response to
emergency medical calls - five floors in the academy dormitory, each with 50 career
police executives from across the country and a dozen foreign nations. I drew up a
thorough survey instrument and went to three of my agent-professors for permission to
do a macro-term project and submit it to each for a grade in their assigned course.

Upon completion, the project garnered three “A’s” with recommendations to have it
published. I submitted it to Law and Order Magazine. Started in 1953, the journal was
once the on-the-job training manual for all law enforcement. Too large for a single issue,
my research was printed in three consecutive months in 1978.

Expanding Police Training: Upon return from Quantico, I resumed my capacity as a
police training instructor at Morris County Fire and Police Training Academy,
Parsippany. I had been a senior instructor at the academy since it was co-located at CCM
in 1969. Among the several subjects I taught were first aid and CPR however, I requested
and was permitted to supplant those subjects with Crash Injury Management which went
very well.

In 1978, I partnered with Paul Roman, NJ representative to the National Registry of
Emergency Technicians, and we went to the NJ Police Training Commission to upgrade
the statewide basic police curriculum to require CIM. The Commission agreed to
mandate CIM.

More Responsibilities: My continued service with Lakeland included almost seven years
as squad president and then two years (‘81 and ‘82) as chief. While chief, Lakeland
facilitated the recovery of a NJSP sergeant from Crooked Swamp Cave in Lafayette and
the emergency evacuation due to credible threats of 527 patients from the Andover
Intermediate Care Center on October 30, 1982.

4

On her arrival at the AICC evacuation, Captain Edna Deacon of the Mine Hill First Aid
Squad, came to me and said: “Danielson! If this is your idea of a drill, you are nuts!” She
was then directed to drop her stretcher and pick up another one that had already been
loaded with a patient. Over 60 ambulances from about 40 squads successfully transported 518 patients to local schools and nine to Newton Memorial. They later repatriated the
518. It took weeks to get the stretchers back to their correct squads.

In 1983, Morristown Memorial Hospital sponsored my paramedic training at Union
County College completing it and becoming a paramedic in 1985 at Dover General
Hospital. From then until 1993, I was Byram police chief by day and Dover General
paramedic by night. Thankfully, we were not very busy at night and were permitted to
sleep while in quarters. I had three sons to put through college and I didn’t want them to
accumulate indebtedness.

Taking terminal leave from BTPD on Friday, April 13, 1993, I started my new career the
following Monday. I became an EMS Coordinator, University Hospital EMS, UMDNJ,
Newark. My primary duty was the NorthSTAR Air Medical Program but I also served as
administrator-on-call every sixth week. UHEMS served Newark, Elizabeth, East Orange,
Newark-Liberty and Camden with BLS, ALS, rescue and communications services.
During my tenure there, I helped instruct medical students in ACLS and conducted
medevac ground safety programs throughout North Jersey. I was on the Incident
Command staff for World Cup Soccer, the Papal/Presidential visit, the Blizzard of ‘96
(NJ closed) and the ‘96 Meadowlands trains collision with 700+ injured. Later in ‘96, I
was selected to be on the International Police Team at the Centennial Olympics, Atlanta,
GA. for four weeks. I moonlighted as a staff EMT (with Lakeland’s Deb Reidmiller)
when off-duty.

In 1998, I became Emergency Management director for Sussex County coordinating all-
hazards responses to many disasters in Sussex County, other NJ counties and out of state
including floods, explosions, hurricanes and 9/11.

Reflection: After more than 60 years and having lifted stretchers of over 35,000 patients,
I can no longer do hands-on EMS but I do serve as a Lakeland trustee and NJ EMS
Council delegate. The hands-on work is left to two sons (three before Scott died on a call
1/1/16), a daughter-in-law, three grandsons and two granddaughters. Six other off-spring
have the potential to continue EMS or another public safety service in decades to come.

Sonny sure started a first responder dynasty. Reminds some of “Blue Bloods.”

This article is a direct street report from our correspondent and has not been edited by the 1st Responder newsroom.