Ethan Roswell and his family didn't experience a personal hardship when Hurricane Sandy hit the area hard. But the Absecon teenager knew that many others weren't so fortunate.
And he knew he wanted to help.
A longtime member of Boy Scout Troop 26 of Galloway Township, Roswell decided his pending Eagle Scout service project would be storm-related.
He approached the Atlantic County Office of Emergency Preparedness and learned the county had a specific need regarding the high wheel rescue vehicles it acquired after the 2012 storm. It seems the vehicles, purchased as military surplus, didn't come with any type of structure to get evacuees safely up into the 62-inch-high rear deck.
Roswell stepped up to the challenge and came up with plans for a custom-made ladder to make it easier for people to enter and exit the trucks. He managed the project from start to finish, including design and approval of stair units, creation of a materials list and securing donations of necessary specialty items.
It took five months for Roswell and his team of fellow Troop 26 scouts to construct 12 rescue ladders for each of the county's rescue vehicles, which were unveiled during a brief ceremony Feb. 25 at the Anthony "Tony" Canale Training Center in Egg Harbor Township.
"It may appear to be a simple ladder, but in reality it is an instrumental piece of our rescue equipment," Atlantic County Emergency Management Coordinator Vince Jones said during the presentation, which was held in front of friends, family, county officials and fellow Boy Scouts.
Jones said the donation of the rescue ladders saved taxpayers hundreds of dollars and they were "very appreciative."
Ed Conover, deputy emergency management coordinator, said the addition of the ladders to the county's rescue fleet will be a tremendous aid in retrieving people from flood waters or other unsafe environments.
Each ladder is 60 inches tall and has wood runners with diamond plate aluminum steps. In describing his project before the gathering, Roswell said it was important to him to make something that was durable, yet lightweight.
He also thought it was important to leave a message of support for the community during times of disaster, so into the side of each ladder he carved one word from the 12 laws of scouting - trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.
Jeff and Patty Roswell said they are proud of their son and his donation to the community.
Roswell said he recently got a letter stating his Eagle Scout board of review is set for sometime in April.
In order to obtain the rank of Eagle, a scout must have earned a total of 21 merit badges, serve actively as a leader in a role pertaining to his troop, plan a community service project and complete the board of review.
"I'm really excited at the thought of it," said Roswell, who would like to enter the Navy after his graduation this spring from the Atlantic County Institute of Technology. "Scouting was always a big part of my life."
He is also excited at marking another milestone. He recently turned 18, which means he is eligible to start firefighting training.
"My dad is a volunteer fireman. I'm following in his footsteps," he said.
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