The South Orange Rescue Squad (SORS) has served the Seton Hall community as well as the greater South Orange-Maplewood areas for 67 years now.
In that time, hundreds of Seton Hall students and alumni have walked through the doors of their headquarters, which has been next to the Fire Department since 2016. Troy Balog is the President of the Squad, Scott Egelberg is its Captain, and Mackenzie Troncone is the Secretary.
“Our slogan is still Neighbors Helping Neighbors because [our founders] just wanted to offer a service that was completely free and available to their friends and family in need,” Balog said. “Our first building was underneath the train station. We were there for roughly 10 years and then we moved to Third Street, which is now a condominium,” Egelberg remarked. “We have been here since 2016, our grand opening,” Balog added.
Five of the SORS members are current students and five members, including Balog and Egelberg, are alumni. Four of the current students, Antoinette Carman, a junior biology major, Joseph Ciavatto, a junior accounting major, Mackenzie Troncone, the squad’s managing secretary and a sophomore accounting major, and Tyler Schroers, a sophomore psychology major, shared their thoughts about being part of the squad. Balog and Egelberg shared their experiences as well.
Both Carman and Schroers are able to manage their time.
“We work Friday nights, so it doesn’t affect school as much, but my first shift last year was on a Thursdays, so it was interesting waking up for class, but it works pretty well. It’s really rewarding,” Carman said.
“I agree that it’s really rewarding; if we’re doing one night a week, that’s our obligation, it really doesn’t affect schoolwork all that much, it’s after 6 p.m. until 8 a.m. on Friday nights, 6 a.m. if you’re on a different night, so schoolwork won’t really get in the way of that. We have plenty of free time, unless we go on a backup, but other than that, it really doesn’t take more than an hour out of our free time,” Tyler Schroers said.
Their captain found them to be too modest. “It’s a sacrifice for them that we appreciate beyond words,” Egelberg said. “They are taking a lot of time out of their day. They were very nice right now in almost minimizing how much, but it’s a lot of time. They respond to backup calls, they drop everything in the middle of the night, they could be working on papers or something and they both will come running out of their dorms and drive down to the building.”
Egelberg and Balog know firsthand the depths of their student members’ sacrifices. Egelberg, who graduated from Seton Hall in 2007 with a B.A. in Communications, has been on the squad since graduation. Balog, ‘15 and MBA ‘16, started with emergency medicine as a volunteer before attending Seton Hall in his hometown of Washington, N.J. as an emergency respondent.
“My EMS certificate was collecting dust and I wanted to do something with it,” Balog remembers. “I came to college and I had my EMT certification and I realized it was sitting collecting dust, so I looked for an emergency squad and I found South Orange. It was in walking distance to Seton Hall, so I sent in an application when I was a freshman in October of 2012 and I really wanted to put my certification to good use and continue volunteering. I volunteered all throughout undergrad and graduate school. Then, I became president and I’ve left South Orange, but I’ve never left the rescue squad. It’s been a long experience, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Egelberg had similar sentiments. “I joined a while ago. I was in between jobs and wanted to find something that helps people directly. There’s no more direct way to help someone than this job. So, I joined then and found that I really love it here,” Egelberg said.
The organization has a close partnership with Seton Hall.
“The partnership is definitely there, but the relationship exists like any other entity within our jurisdiction, whether or not it was Seton Hall University or it was another institution because they were in South Orange, they follow within our geographical jurisdiction to respond to for emergency medical services,” Balog said. “Although there is no written contract agreement that says we have to help them, we do because they are here.”
SORS is present when contacted and for scheduled campus events.
“The partnership is that Seton Hall is the largest source of people who come in and out of the town. We’ve actually done research before about our relationship with Seton Hall and July has been the lowest call volume month when no one is here and September is the highest when everyone comes back to South Orange,” he added.
“Anything Seton Hall has an event for, we’re there. This Sunday we’re doing an open house,” Egelberg said.
“We’ve attended the concerts in the past, like Group Boston, every year religiously since they’ve started. So all of the SAB events were asked to come,” Balog said. “We try to come to every single one. They have an emergency training every year done by the Public Safety Dept at Seton Hall and they run through exercises like where they come in, what we would do. They’ve also given us space to run MCI drills, which are Mass Casualty Incidents because it is a large epicenter of people in town, it is prone to having an MCI. Where the people are is where the accidents will be. The most famous MCIs we had was at Seton Hall with the Boland fire. They graciously give us the opportunity to train there that way nothing like that would ever happen again.”
Troncone shared other events they are a part of via email.
“We have four ambulances and a first response vehicle, which respond to medical emergencies primarily within South Orange, including Seton Hall University,” she said. “We also assist when called to Maplewood, Newark, and other neighboring communities through regional mutual aid agreements. Additionally, we teach First Aid and CPR to members of the community, provide free EMS standby coverage at public events, and visit schools, camps and daycares to teach children about safety, First Aid and Emergency Medical Services.”
They emphasize the importance of providing medical attention for free.
“No member of the Rescue Squad is compensated for his/her medical or administrative time and there is never a fee charged for our services,” Trocone said. We are a community-based organization that is dedicated to serving our neighbors when they need us most. All of the revenue of the Rescue Squad is received through voluntary donations and fundraising events. All operating costs are covered by these contributions, including building, equipment, and vehicle maintenance and purchases.”
Troncone has been volunteering with the squad for six years. “Personally, I started with the South Orange Rescue Squad in high school, and have been volunteering there since. I grew up in South Orange, so I started through the cadet program, which teaches high school students about becoming EMTs and trains them to save lives,” she said. “After committing to Seton Hall, I decided I wanted to continue to serve my community as well, so I stuck with the organization and even assumed the administrative role as Corresponding Secretary, which also gave me a seat on the Board of Directors. My experience with the Squad has overall been enriching. It is a close-knit group of people who want to help others, and to be a part of that is pretty neat. I have gained invaluable experience through the organization and am extremely glad I decided to volunteer.”
Ciavatta shared his most memorable story of when he knew his work made a difference.
“Originally when I came to SHU I was a bio major and was on a pre-med track and I knew it wasn’t for me so that’s why I joined originally for experience,” he said. “Even though I switched to accounting I still loved it and I’m still here…We had a CPR save that was probably my favorite call ever. Some calls you do less, some calls you do more. That one I really felt like we saved that person and that meant a lot to me.”
Egelberg and Balog are pleased with the students’ work and the partnership they share with SHU.
“We partner with Public Safety to make sure they’re safe,” Egelberg said. “Also we take a lot of their students and work with them for the Rescue Squad. To me, it’s so vital to have students on campus that are EMTs who can respond during the day and also at night when we have multiple calls. If it’s a true life or death medical emergency…Tyler here can run from Aquinas Hall over to Boland. it’s great having a responder who can perform medical care. The best part of our partnership with Seton Hall is having students who can come down here and play a major, major part in the rescue squad.”
“They’re great members for us, especially if we catch them as freshmen,” Balog added. “It’s the perfect symbiotic relationship for us because they’re here consistently, they know the area, really the best people to help are the people around you, the people familiar with it. We have them here for at least four years. SHU and the SORS always worked well together. We are also blessed they contribute a donation to us typically. The last time they contributed to us was in 2014, but in part of the idea that all of the services we provide to the town, to the students are free, SHU, is also a nonprofit and they recognize charitable contributions and servant leadership and they donate to us sometimes.”
Kaitlyn Quinn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.