Main Content



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

Michael Bascom, president of the New Jersey EMS Task Force, challenged team members to “embrace the opportunities that lie ahead and continue to push the boundaries of what is possible in emergency medical services” during the organization’s annual meeting on Monday, May 13.

The meeting at the Hamilton Fire House in Neptune, NJ, kicked off the organization’s 20th-anniversary celebration.

“In 2024,” Bascom said, “we will focus our efforts on team building, preparing for the future by building depth and future leaders, by replacing aging equipment, strengthening and expanding our capabilities, developing our new members, and rebuilding the physician module with a focus on more expansive collaboration between our physicians, planners, leaders, and team members.”

The annual event featured speeches by NJ Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Kaitlan Baston and Assistant Commissioner Dana Johnson, NJ State Senator Declan O’Scanlon Jr., and an inspiring presentation on a systematic EMS change by Dr. Rachel Haroz of Cooper University Health Care.

Dr. Baston recalled an incident in 2023 when the NJ EMS Task Force responded to evacuate a long-term care facility. She called near the end of the incident to thank the team.

“I said thank you so much,” Baston said. “The response was, ‘Okay, mam, this is what we do. This is just what we do. We’re here for you.’ And the energy, and the ‘that’s what we do’ on the other line, I will never forget that moment … Those are heroes’ words. Those are the words you hear when you’re just doing your daily job. And that daily job is saving people, and saving lives, and helping me sleep at night knowing you are all out there.”

In 2023, Bascom noted that NJ EMS Task Force members dedicated more than 10,000 hours and responded to 111 emergency incidents statewide. The organization’s roster returned to 250+ members, and the state-supported it with more than $1.8 million.

“We want you to know we value everything you do, and we’re with you in this endeavor,” said Dana Johnson, assistant commissioner of the NJ Department of Health. “The Task Force has aided coalition members and partners by supporting evacuations, patient transfers, and providing incident management for many, many disasters. Overall, the NJ Department of Health is so grateful for the EMS Task Force’s invaluable support that helps us bolster the State’s emergency preparedness and response capabilities. Thank you for making us successful in New Jersey.”

“2023 was a pivotal year for our team,” Bascom said. “We’ve faced challenges head-on. We’ve adapted and transformed the way we respond, the way we work, and the way we serve our world.”

Bascom noted the strength and diversity of the team. 

“Our knowledge base is second to none. Together, we responded to wildfires, medical facility evacuations, and ransomware attacks on healthcare facilities, supported major events, and deployed assets to support the United National General Assembly,” he said. “I can assure you that responding to ransomware attacks was not discussed in any of the founder’s meetings. But I’m honored to say that when a hospital chain in the area was hit with a ransomware attack, they turned to us for help.”

Conversations about what a collaborative EMS force would look like began before the 9/11 terrorist attacks but became a reality after the tragedy. The founders envisioned a system to unite emergency medical professionals across New Jersey to respond to crises efficiently and with expertise. Since its inception, the New Jersey EMS Task Force has been at the forefront of emergency response, tackling challenges with resilience and adaptability. From natural disasters to public health crises, from mass casualty incidents to acts of terrorism, we have stood ready to serve, providing critical care and support when it is needed most. 

Bascom said the most important part of the organization is its people. He said the focus 2024 is training future leaders through educational opportunities and training sessions to give people with limited experience time in leadership roles.

“Behind every successful mission, there are countless individuals whose dedication and sacrifice make it possible,” Bascom said. “To the men and women of the NJEMSTF, I extend my deepest gratitude. Your selflessness and courage inspire us all, and your unwavering commitment to saving lives is a testament to the noblest ideals of our profession.”

Dr. Baston also noted the ongoing changes in the field of pre-hospital care.

“It’s a field that needs new ideas infused into the workforce; it needs career pathing. It needs longevity. It needs new ways to invigorate you,” she said.

She noted the changing types of emergencies EMS providers face every day, including mental health, substance use disorders or addiction, and people suffering alone all too often.

“It’s not just medical information and preparedness we all have to have every day to be prepared for the field. It’s emotional intelligence and the ability to connect with someone who is in mental crisis,” Baston said. “And an ability to deescalate a situation that’s escalating. It’s all these new skills that we have to hone together in order to really still be that safety net that person our neighbors are depending on. We have to be there when it's their kid who is in crisis. It’s their nephew who just overdosed. It's your neighbor’s daughter struggling out there in the field. That’s what we have to be ready for.  And I’ll tell you, if we think outside the box enough, we can get the next generation ready. And we can all be there to get them ready to serve, not just the big emergencies coming our way, but the day-to-day things that people are struggling with.”

Bascom said the NJ EMS Task Force members faced an ever-changing EMS landscape.

“Looking ahead, we must remain vigilant in the face of emerging threats and evolving challenges,” Bascom said. “The world around us is constantly changing, and our ability to adapt and innovate will be critical in ensuring the safety and well-being of those we serve.”

avatar image
RICHARD HUFFSenior Correspondent

No information from the author.