SPRINGFIELD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — They save lives on the road every day, and now some first responders in New Jersey are the ones receiving protection as they deal with more calls and new threats.

As sirens blare and one exhaustingly long day bleeds into the next, members at the Springfield First Aid Squad got a major pick-me-up Friday — N95 masks and gowns.

It’s one of the many ways the nonprofit group MD-1 has been helping brave first responders who are being tested in ways they’ve never experienced.


“The first responders are scared. We’ve never seen anything like this,” said Dr. Mark Merlin, founder and CEO of MD-1.

Merlin’s emergency room physicians have been responding to disaster scenes for nearly two decades to help EMTs at emergencies like car crashes, but now so many of the calls are for COVID-19.

“I worry about bringing it home to my family,” Merlin said.

Springfield First Aid Squad Chief Apu Mullick explains that’s why the personal protective equipment training they get from MD-1 is so crucial.

“Making sure that we’re using it correctly, using it often to protect ourselves from the known COVID patients, the suspected and the unknowns that may have it and we just don’t realize it,” he said.

CBS2’s Jessica Layton saw that precaution in person during a 911 call for a car crash on I-78. MD-1 physician Dr. Navin Ariyapraki asked the victim if he’s had any coronavirus symptoms recently. The patient said no.

But Ariyapraki knows he’s exposed to the virus every day.

“I worry [about getting sick] every day, and I’m trying to stay healthy,” he said.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ Health Dept. | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211

The SUV the MD-1 physicians use to go and assist on these calls is essentially an operating room and an emergency room on wheels.

“MD-1 can actually give blood, do surgical procedures,” Merlin said.

They can even perform life-saving procedures on COVID-19 patients from the back of the vehicle.

“We have really good ways to intubate people — in other words, putting them on ventilators,” Merlin said.

Life-saving means that require a lot of money. The organization is asking for donations to help them in this difficult time.

For more information about MD-1, visit md1program.org.