Protect Hopewell Valley: How and why did you decide to volunteer?
Chris Jones: When I was younger, I wanted to join the Junior Ski Patrol at a local mountain in North Jersey. One of the requirements was to obtain Red Cross Advanced First Aid certification. I did so at my local first aid squad. Once I got there, I saw what an exciting and interesting place it was, so I joined. Who would have known how rewarding it would also end up being?
PHV: Why do you stick with it?
CJ: I increased my basic first aid knowledge by acquiring my EMT (certification) while I was stationed in Virginia with the US Coast Guard. When I came back to New Jersey, I had all this training that could potentially save someone’s life, and I thought it would be a shame to let it all go. So I decided to join another department in North Jersey, where I was living at the time. I’ve been volunteering ever since. It’s been a big part of my life.
PHV: Describe your most memorable moment as a firefighter/EMT.
CJ: I have many, but I’ll pick something recent. The Hopewell Fire Department EMU (Emergency Medical Unit) had been dispatched on my duty night for a call right before Christmas 2013 to respond to our building for a woman possibly in labor – a worried husband had driven his wife to the fire department. We all arrived for the call, to find out the woman was in imminent labor in the back seat of her car. We opened the bay and pulled the ambulance out about 10 feet onto the apron. Her water broke as we put her into the ambulance. The next thing you know, we were delivering her baby.
While this was my third time assisting in a delivery, it was the first for two other members of the crew. It’s a thrilling experience! It’s a little scary during the actual delivery, but afterwards, it’s amazing seeing a mom and her newborn together. And in this case, seeing the faces of the two newer members on their first delivery was also wonderful. Everything went great, and she (the baby) was nice and healthy. Just before her first birthday, we (Jones and the entire crew that delivered the baby) went to visit her. We brought her a card and a stuffed animal, and were met with so much gratitude from the family.
PHV: What has surprised you about firefighting/working as an EMT?
CJ: I came to Hopewell from Franklin Township, where we had about 4,000 calls a year. It feels more like a job when you’re doing that many calls. In Hopewell, we have approximately 300 calls a year. It’s a lot quieter, plus there are a lot of younger members who take on a lot of the workload so that we with families, especially younger families, are not as overburdened.
The fire department and ambulance work together, so there is a lot of extra help. It’s a lot easier to be a volunteer here than it is in some other communities. You have more time to yourself, and so it’s not the burden you would think it would be. The more volunteers we attract, the better it gets for everybody.
PHV: Any advice for those interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter or EMT?
CJ: As a volunteer, you’re not a bystander anymore. Now, you get to see it live and be one of the people making a difference, which often is by saving your neighbor’s life or property. You’re not reading about it in the newspaper because you were part of that heroic event when it happened.
The training is free, the uniform is free, and the friends are free. It’s a great feeling to know that I’ve got 100 other members – a good majority of whom work in the township as either a crossing guard, a clerk at the food store, a teacher, a police officer, etc. – and they know my sons and my wife. If something were to happen and I’m out of town, I can depend on them to help my family. There’s a 100-person family that you gain by joining a Fire Department or First Aid Squad and this organization (Hopewell Fire Department) has been established in our community for over 100 years so they must be doing something right. I would leave anyone considering volunteering with the same advice that we all give our children: You won’t know if you can do it unless you give it a try, so come out and at least speak with us any Tuesday evening.