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Bergen County Adds Mass Casualty EMS Special Ops Unit

Bergen County's all-terrain ambulance and mass casualty bus.
Bergen County's all-terrain ambulance and mass casualty bus. Photo Credit: COURTESY: Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco

PARAMUS, N.J. -- Using resources it already has, Bergen County on Monday officially established a highly trained, well-equipped Medical Services Special Operation Group to respond to large-scale incidents involving dozens of victims.

"You hope you never need it, but this combines skilled manpower and equipment in case we do," Michael Tarantino, director of the Bergen County EMS Training Center, told Daily Voice.

County Executive Jim Tedesco, who was officially announcing the move Monday night at the training center in Paramus, brought the center and the county Office of Emergency Management together for the initiative.

Tedesco is asking local ambulance squads for volunteers for a rotation "so that there will always be a certain amount of EMTs on standby if needed," Tarantino said.

The training center already has a mass casualty bus set up with benches for dozens of people to warm up or cool off. It can also accommodate up to 18 stretchers.

The training center also has an all-terrain mini-ambulance and a mobile oxygen generator -- which can fill oxygen bottles at a mass casualty scene -- along with a rescue truck, ambulances and confined space trailer equipment.

Local emergency medical personnel have trained on the equipment.

"Now we can take it another step without having to add anything," Tarantino said.

The Emergency Medical Services Special Operation Group "was not created to take over or supersede" local services, Tarantino emphasized. "It's there for assistance and support as needed at only large-scale incidents involving several patients or potential patients."

It wouldn't be called for a crash involving a few cars, in another words.

The group could respond, however, to a large-scale fire on the order of the one that struck the Avalon apartment complex in Edgewater in January 2015.

"An all-around excellent job was done that night," Tarantino said. "But in fires like that in the future, there could be a long extended period of time where you need extra resources.

"Again, God forbid it's ever needed," he said. "But if it is, we'll be ready."

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