Emergency personnel who are stressed out at work now have an outlet to share their feelings with colleagues in similar circumstances, whether those people are in New Jersey or around the country.
They can join TheBadge.org -- a Web site started by a Burlington County sheriff's officer for policemen, firefighters and emergency-squad members who are looking to date another or just to chat online.
The free service was the brainchild of sheriff's officer Ken Bachman, a 36-year-old husband and father with three children.
"The site gives single men and women in first-responder jobs the unique opportunity to meet other singles like themselves who can relate to the stress and odd shift work," Bachman said. "There is nothing more therapeutic than talking about your day to someone who understands what you are going through."
He said many in uniform have had strained relationships with people who don't understand or appreciate the demands of their jobs, and that has led to divorces in some cases.
In addition, the site also provides a public forum where members can discuss timely issues related to their work.
During the past six months, the Web site's traffic has spiked, said Bachman, who runs it with a limited partner, retired county prosecutor's office detective Tom Grieco of Delran.
Bachman said the site averages 4,500 hits a month. Users must register as members and post a resume. They also can post a photo.
"The site is doing phenomenally, and we recently opened it to women who are not in emergency services but who are looking for a man in uniform," he said.
Bachman said the site isn't like the hundreds of other singles' dating services on the Web.
"This is unique because it is the only one specifically targeting emergency personnel," he said.
Dawn Lewis of Marlton, a registered nurse, has dated two policemen and a firefighter from the site whom she now counts as friends. She says she is not currently dating anyone from the site. She said she goes there regularly to chat after a stressful shift at work.
"It's nice to be able to meet people with schedules that are crazy, especially knowing the stresses of jobs," said Lewis, 26. "I found we could really relate to one another, whereas it is hard to communicate with those in a field that does not require the time or have the same stresses."
On the site, some of the women refer to themselves as "badge bunnies" because they are seeking men in uniform.
A single firefighter living in Burlington County said he enjoys the site and recently has had one date with a female police officer.
"Things went well, so I imagine there will be a second date," said Mike, 26, whose last name is being withheld at his request. "The site is great because it allows us to share stories and help one another."
Grieco does site monitoring and reads all resumes.
He said the site recently instituted the Internet Safety icon as a precaution. It allows members to report any inappropriate, abusive or potentially illegal activities that may take place on the site or that may result from using it.