Dean Snook, the chief of Par-Troy Emergency Medical Services, said he is quietly proud when he considers the milestone approaching for his outfit.
"Aug. 5 will be our 10th year," said Parsippany Human Services Director Barbara Ievoli, poking a little fun at the man she hired a decade ago. "Dean was only 20 when he started. He wasn't even old enough to drink."
Ten years later, Snook is the man in charge of Parsippany's only paid ambulance squad. Just dealing with , he said.
"Sometimes I still feel as if some people are kind of wary of us," he said. "'Oh, they don't care, they're just doing it for a paycheck.' But we get a lot less of it. I feel that to most people, we've proven ourselves to them.
"That's a good feeling."
Snook said having a paid squad is very important to a size the town of Parsippany.
"You think about it: We cover about 23 square miles," he noted. "More than 50,000 people live here, and during the day, it's three or four times that. We fulfill a really important role here."
Based out of the , Par-Troy EMS has two trucks, each covering half of the township. His staff includes 11 emergency medical technicians who he says are devoted to their jobs and to the people they serve.
Snook said that the volunteer EMTs do an excellent job.
"But they can't be on as consistently as we are," he said. "As the paid service, we cover the daytime hours between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. By law, we have two EMTs on each of our two trucks at all times."
Volunteers, he explained, can have one driver and one EMT.
"That difference helps us provide the best care we can and give the patients the attention they need and deserve," he asserted.
Having two EMS trucks available during daytime hours benefits the community as well, Snook said.
"It's helped us achieve better response times, and that helps us save lives," he said, adding that his full-time squad members work 12-hour shifts three days per week. "We care about this town, and while we may not be perfect, we are trying to get as close to it as possible."
Snook said he hopes to lead his team by example.
"I'm not one for having a love of rank," he said, "but it's a necessity. Whether you're paid or volunteer, though, you've got to have a rank and file so you provide a good service, whatever you're doing, from a soup kitchen or clothing bin right up through emergency services. You have to have rank and file to get the job done efficiently and effectively.
"I take a lot of pride in what I do and I know that my actions will be filtered down through the staff under me," Snook continued. "I know I have to give my best if I want them to be at their best. I would never expect them to do anything that I wouldn't do myself."
Snook said Par-troy EMS works under a best-practice rule.
"We're always striving to do better operationally and clinically when it comes to patient treatment and doing as much as the state will allow by law to offer basic life support services," he said, adding that when the situation requires, he has no problem with going out on an ambulance and making patient calls.
"Sometimes I will be on the scene as a supervisor, but I get involved," Snook explained. "Instead of being the hawk watching the nest, I'm also someone who is assisting and helping bring a solution to the problem or support through the crisis."
Ievoli said Snook was hired as a part-time EMT a decade ago.
"I was just looking for extra money while going to school," he said, adding that a paramedic friend recommended that he check out Parsippany while attending paramedic classes at Union County College. "I applied, had the interview with Barbara and a couple of people and got hired."
Once Snook became a certified paramedic in 2002, he "was the youngest paramedic in the state and left us to do his thing," Ievoli said.
"I call it a hiatus," he said of the two years he spent at what is now called the St. Barnabas Health Care System. (He worked outside of Parsippany for about three years, but during some of that time, he pulled double duty.)
Ievoli said that when Par-Troy EMS was instituted, there was no chief.
"In 2005, when the powers-that-be said I could hire a chief, Dean was the first person I called," she said, laughing. "Didn't think twice. I said, 'Let me get Dean back here.'
"He was just an exceptional employee."
Snook said his greatest accomplishments have been reducing response times and increasing staff accountability. One of the greatest challenges, he said, was working during Hurricane Irene.
"Much of our effort was involved with helping Barbara with the , making sure that all the supplies required were in place and that we were ready to provide residents with whatever assistance they needed," he recalled. "The biggest thing was having to work as a kind of social worker. But we do a good bit of that when we make service calls, helping family members who are worried when a loved one is sick."
Snook said, however, that the squad's toughest experience has been getting Parsippany residents to understand that while his team gets paid for their work, they really do care deeply for the township and the people.
"Over the 10 years, I think we have proven ourselves," he said. "We aren't perfect, but we strive to be. And I believe the residents finally understand this.
"We're aiming to do better all the time, and that won't change," Snook said.