To the Editor:
Last September, I wrote a letter to the editor discussing first response agreements for fire and emergency medical services between Lower Township and Wildwood Crest for the coverage of Diamond Beach, in Lower Township.
As locals know, Diamond Beach is contiguous to Wildwood Crest and is often mistaken as being part of the Crest. Diamond Beach is connected to the Lower Township mainland by the Middle Thorofare toll drawbridge.
After a first-response agreement for fire protection services was entered into by the two municipalities in 2015, Diamond Beach residents were hopeful for a similar agreement for emergency medical services utilizing the Crest’s rescue squad facilities, located no farther than five blocks from any Diamond Beach location. That hope has now waned.
One meeting was held between the two municipalities with no agreement reached and no follow up scheduled. With the Middle Thorofare Bridge reduced to one lane, the residents of Diamond Beach are at more risk than at any previous time.
Unfortunately, last fall, one resident died en-route to the hospital after waiting over 15 minutes for the Lower Township Rescue Squad. That’s not to criticize the valiant efforts of the squad, only to point out the inescapable barriers of time and distance they face.
Jim Sanford, president of the Diamond Beach Citizens Action Group (DBCAG), has appeared at several Lower Township Council meetings, asking the status of the emergency services agreement with the Crest. His inquiries have been met with resistance from one council member, Thomas Conrad, Ward 1 (Diamond Beach is in Ward 3).
Conrad is also a salaried officer of the Lower Township Rescue Squad. Conrad basically accepts response times of over 12 minutes to Diamond Beach from the rescue facility eight miles away, in Villas, as long as the average response times for the whole township are acceptable. Eight-minute response times are a generally acceptable standard, with four minutes or less being the gold standard.
He noted at a recent council meeting that response times to Villas and other mainland sections of the township average about six minutes.
Mathematical averages can be misleading. For example, if there were 50 responses to Villas, averaging six minutes, coupled with five responses to Diamond Beach, averaging 30 minutes, the combined total of 55 responses would average an acceptable eight minutes. However, the 30-minute average time to Diamond Beach used in my example would not be acceptable by any standards.
Coincidentally, Lower Township recently adopted a resolution for the public portions of council meetings, limiting a member of the public to three minutes and prohibiting any questions directed to council members.
Council meetings can be attended in person, as well as virtual sign-on. It begs the question – what do they not want the general public to see and hear?
The Crest rescue squad can respond to anywhere in Diamond Beach in under four minutes, a critical time to start defibrillation to prevent brain damage and death, while Lower Township Rescue Squad could respond in 10, at best, or more minutes, a critical six minutes or more life or death delay.
I ask - what would it cost to “buy” those precious lifesaving six minutes for the residents and visitors in Diamond Beach? What percentage of the $7 million in taxes paid by Diamond Beach residents would it take?
ED. NOTE: The author is vice president of DBCAG.