Since its founding in 1938, Second Alarmer’s Association and Rescue Squad of Montgomery County, Incorporated (SARS) has grown to become one of the largest private not-for-profit pre-hospital Emergency Medical Service (EMS) providers in the region, responding to over 12,000 emergency incidents each year. SARS is a combination department composed of 100 volunteer and 123 career members, delivering service from five stations with 20 vehicles, including twelve advanced life support ambulances.
SARS provides crucial lifesaving Emergency Medical and Rescue Services to over 125,045 1 residents in 49,1492 households in a 56.683 square mile area that encompasses Abington, Upper Dublin, Upper Moreland and Whitpain Townships, as well as the Boroughs of Hatboro, Jenkintown and Rockledge. SARS is also the primary contracted EMS and heavy rescue company for 15 miles of the Pennsylvania Turnpike from the Willow Grove Interchange. On a daily basis mutual aid assistance is provided to the eight EMS organizations adjacent to our coverage area which could include major incidents in the City of Philadelphia. SARS participates in the County/State/Federal wide mutual aid agreement to respond wherever dispatched by 911.
In addition, Second Alarmer’s provides ongoing EMS standby support to many community events each year. SARS has also developed and become one of the leading training centers in the 5-county Philadelphia area; offering monthly community first-aid and CPR classes as well as providing numerous courses for first responders, such as Healthcare Provider CPR, Advanced Cardiac Life Support, Pediatric Advanced Life Support and Pre-hospital Trauma Life Support. We were also one of the first to have pre- hospital instructors certified to teach Tactical Combat Casualty Care; a course designed for the military; however, easily adapted to the civilian arena, especially law enforcement.
Unlike local fire and police departments, not all municipalities provide Second Alarmer’s with recurring tax funding; our survival is dependent upon reimbursement for services provided, grants and generous donations. Over the past several years, SARS has been reinvigorated by new leadership which has focus on creating long term structure, including the adoption of a strategic plan, to make the organization a premier business operation. We have ensured that policies and procedures are established with the strict oversight of the Board of Directors, Executive Director, Administrative Staff, Operational Officers, Internal Audit Teams and by the independent financial audits of Smart Devine Certified Public Accountants of Philadelphia. Financial audits are prepared annually and voluntarily given to all municipalities served. SARS also voluntarily initiates Compliance Billing Audits by the law firm of Page, Wolfberg and Wirth and is member of the Pennsylvania Association of Non-Profit Organizations. It is our goal to pursue accreditation to further improve our operation and continue transparency for further public trust.
Originally chartered in the state of Pennsylvania in 1938 with the purpose “to form an association to serve coffee, lime water, seltzer, etc. to foreman and police and rescue workers” with a single truck converted as a canteen unit that could go anywhere requested and in years to come would travel to states as far away as Mmississippi4. Within less than a decade, SARS placed its first ambulance in service as back-up to the local hospital and police departments who provided the primary service.
Those who know of Second Alarmer’s think first of our bus fleet which where know as Disaster Units. The first was put into service in June of 1950 and continued providing services through 1968. This bus like vehicle came completely equipped with every possible type of medical equipment needed; including, blood plasma, oxygen, asbestos suits, rescue blankets, hand tools, inhalators and resuscitators and acetylene cutting equipment. It accommodated six stretcher patients and four ambulatory patients, was Second Alarmer’s Association and Rescue Squad of Montgomery County
completely heated and air conditioned, provided running hot and cold water, contained a public address system and five radio frequencies, as well as a 100 volt automatic generator. The Disaster Unit was so modern, unusual and well equipped that it was considered to be 10 years ahead of other rescue squad services. It was also considered by fire, police and Civil Defense officials of the time to be one of the finest pieces of equipment in the United States.
In 1975, after many years’ worth of reputation for being on the cutting edge of providing rescue and patient care service, Second Alarmer’s was one of the first companies in the country to place the “Jaws of Life” into operation. Designed by the Hurst Corporation of Warminster, it was the newest tool in our toolbox to help save lives.
Between 1979 and 1981, SARS grew from providing primary ambulance service for Upper Moreland Township and parts of Upper Dublin Township, to also providing services for Abington Township and the Boroughs of Rockledge and Jenkintown as their respective police departments ended their emergency medical services.
In 1994, Second Alarmer’s was recognized as the Ambulance Service of the Year, by both the Montgomery County Regional EMS office and The Pennsylvania Emergency Health Services Council.
In 1997, an academic partnership with Temple University was formed to develop pre-hospital research. This was the first, purely academic, partnership of its type in the county. Since inception, papers have been published and presented at conferences including the National Highway Safety Administration and the National Association of Emergency Medical Physicians EMS Agenda for the Future Conference in May of 1998.
In 1998, recognizing the benefit of early defibrillation in cardiac arrest patients, we initiated a program to help provide local police departments with an AED (automatic external defibrillator) for each patrol officer along with the appropriate training needed to operate the unit.
In 1999, after the Enterprise Fire Company of Hatboro decided they could no longer afford to provide their ambulance service to the borough, they, along with the Borough Council requested SARS be the service to provide Emergency Medical Services to the residents and visitors of Hatboro Borough.
The beginning of 2003, after a long relationship with various career personnel leasing companies, SARS became the sole manager of its career personnel. Later in that same year, SARS was awarded a contract to provide leased career firefighting personnel to the McKinley Fire Company through the Abington Township Fire Oversight Committee. This was also the year a bi-monthly newsletter was started. The publication is divided today, to an internal newsletter to keep the lines of communication open with our staff and an external newsletter going to local government officials as well as our residents to keep them informed and offer safety tips.
In 2004, SARS received various donations and grants to begin the process of providing support for area tactical responses. We currently have a trailer that houses 6 bicycles along with a heated/ air conditioned mass casualty tent with a generator. This unit has been used a large local community events for patient treatment and at some emergency scenes for fire rehabilitation. The bicycle team was such as success for quicker response through crowded areas or on uneven terrain that SARS was the 2006 EMS sponsor for the 60 mile long Philadelphia 3-day Susan > Koman Breast Cancer Walk
In late 2006, after an 18-month long process of evaluation for the EMS industry and five different local EMS organizations, township supervisors unanimously voted to award SARS with the contract to be the primary EMS provider for Whitpain Township. In the same year, SARS also became a member of the Montgomery County / State of Pennsylvania Strike Team. Our team can be deployed at the request of PEMA and/or FEMA and have been sent to the gulf coast for deployment after Hurricanes Katrina and Gustav.
In 2007 and 2008 SARS added addition medical billing staff to its payroll and are contracted to provide billing services for Bryn Athyn Fire Company Ambulance and Berwyn Fire Company Ambulance. Also in February 2008, SARS recognized the need to supplement the volunteer operational staff by developing a career officer program offering for 24 hour 7 day a week field supervisor to meet all operational needs.
In 2009 SARS was asked to spearhead a movement to bring EMS agencies together that surround Abington Memorial Hospital to start a regional 12-lead transmission project. This project has grown to include providers in a 10 mile square radius around Abington Memorial Hospital which incorporates other others and agencies from Philadelphia and Bucks Counties. SARS was the lead agency to file for a 2009 Regional Assistance to Firefighters Grant for this project.
Second Alarmer’s was named the #23 Best Place to work in Pennsylvania for 2010. This distinction is awarded to only 100 employers from across the commonwealth through a process supported by the Pennsylvania Foundation and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. To achieve this honor, SARS was required to undergo a stringent assessment process that included questionnaires for SARS administration as well as career staff members.
2011 saw SARS participate in our community’s 300th anniversary celebrations. One of staff served on the Tri-centennial Steering committee and was instrumental in helping to plan a block party that included an open house at our headquarters building. There was an estimated 3,500 people in attendance.
In 2012, SARS was named the EMS Agency of the Year in the state of Pennsylvania by the Pennsylvania Emergency Health Services Council, in recognition for our contribution to the development and growth of quality pre-hospital care within our community. In December, we began a pilot study that will hopefully allow for FDA approval for the use of non-invasive hand-held brain scanners that give a measurement of acute brain hemorrhage. This equipment is critical in the early detection and treatment of subarachnoid hemorrhage stroke, which is the most deadly stroke with a more than 50 percent fatality rate and of the survivors, approximately half with suffer permanent disability.
2013 saw an in-depth evaluation of cardiac monitors resulting in the purchasing of 13 new state-of-art cardiac monitor/defibrillator/pacers. There was also a purchase of 3 automatic chest compression devices that have improved the out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survival rates.
In 2014, SARS adopted a new set of by-laws designed to govern the organization into the future with input of members of the community through an Outside Director at Large. Clinically SARS lead the way in a state trial for advanced airways and has continued with the American Heart Association’s CARES program to continue to improve out-of-hospital cardiac arrest survival.
As we move into 2015, we have ordered and taken delivery of 2 new state of the art ambulances. We also hope to expand our training, both internal and to the community, to provide CPR courses and classes specifically for trauma related injuries and safety to name a few.