"You Call, We Haul."
Before 1979, the Borough of Avalon’s medical emergencies were handled by the police department.
The police were reliable and efficient, but largely untrained – and many citizens were unsatisfied with the department’s response time and the transit time to the nearest hospital.
Henry Armstrong, who served as Avalon police chief from the early 1920s to 1952 (left); A 1956 fire with the white police ambulance parked nearby (right).
Starting in January 1978, members of both the Avalon Chamber of Commerce and the Avalon Home and Land Owners Association (AHLOA) spearheaded a proposal to create a “rescue service unit” consisting of a volunteer force of a minimum twenty-one permanent residents.
An early list of rescue squad volunteers.
At first, borough officials questioned the need for such an expense, but an increasing number of residents voiced support and volunteered for training. So, the borough agreed to the proposal, as long as funds could be raised through public contributions and enough trained personnel could be found.
The borough even agreed to turn over the three existing ambulances in use by the police department. From the late 1970s onwards, an assortment of vehicles has been used by the Avalon Rescue Squad.
Due to increasing ambulance regulations, medical services stopped using "car ambulances," like this Cadillac model used by the Avalon Rescue Squad in its early days.
Two of the ambulances used by the Avalon Rescue Squad in the 1980s and 90s.
By the end of summer 1978, Avalon had incorporated its own rescue squad, which was to be operational by the beginning of 1979.
One of the jumpsuits worn by rescue squad volunteers from the late 1970s to the mid-80s.
Following months of the preparation, training, and fundraising, the Avalon Rescue Squad finally answered their first call on the afternoon of June 25, 1979.
From then on, the rescue squad would expand and respond to the medical emergencies of Avalon residents and visitors.
From its incorporation until the mid-1980s, everything to do with the rescue squad was on a volunteer basis. This led to some innovative fundraising events, such as a 1980s baseball match against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Avalon Rescue Squad benefited from many dedicated volunteers.
A Brook Airway artificial respirator used by the Avalon Rescue Squad.
A Professional Rescue Squad
During Mayor Rachel Sloan’s administration, it became evident that the rescue squad could no longer operate on a voluntary basis. After a particularly bad accident in the mid-1980s, Avalon began phasing in a full-time, 24-hour a day, paid professional rescue squad.
Mayor Sloan’s tenure also included the dedication of the rescue squad building in August 1986...
... which was eventually demolished in mid-autumn of 2004 for the construction of an upgraded building.
The new rescue squad facilities are located between the public safety and fire department buildings on Dune Drive.
Avalon Rescue Squad Chiefs
Since its incorporation in 1978, the Avalon Rescue Squad has had a total of eight chiefs:
Andy Siranca (1978-1979)
Wayne Dean (1979-1980)
John Fallon (1980-1981)
Kate Meyer (1981-1982)
Terry Ripp (1982-1983)
Carolyn O'Brien (1983-1994)
Tina Fuller (1994-1998)
Kevin Scarpa (1998-)
Top row, left to right: Kate Myers, Carolyn O'Brien. Bottom row, left to right: Tina Fuller, Kevin Scarpa.
Today, Avalon’s rescue squad is an Emergency Medical Service (EMS) operating from ambulances with a staff of full-time and part-time emergency medical technicians. They provide emergency medical care in Avalon and neighboring communities.
Members of the rescue squad possess a variety of certifications - including first responder, emergency medical technician, and paramedic.
One of the jackets worn by rescue squad volunteers from the late 1970s to the mid-80s.
Despite the Borough's shift to a full-time professional rescue squad, Avalon’s ambulances and equipment are still provided through donations made by the community.
In return, the Avalon Rescue Squad actively engages with the people of Avalon by offering public CPR and AED training, and volunteering their services for community events.
The Avalon History Center
Want to see more? Visit the Avalon History Center to explore our full exhibits in person!