The Thomasville Rescue Squad, Inc. was chartered by the North Carolina Secretary of State in April 1969 as a volunteer, non-profit organization “to render aid to persons in distress, administer first aid, and perform missions’ incident to the rescue of human beings who are in distress”. for the sole purpose of providing rescue services for the greater Thomasville area and surrounding communities. The organizers felt the need to provide rescue services to the citizens of the area because of prolonged response times and inadequate equipment available from the existing provider. The squad started with a handful of community minded members from all walks of life brought together with the common goal of building an effective and responsive locally based agency. With an idea, a prayer, and little else, the group began the endless task of fund raising and training, with funds and available training both in short supply. The group however persevered and the squad began to grow, taking one cautious step after another.
During the early years, members paid for such essentials as fuel, electricity, and telephone service with their own money when squad funds were low. Friendly merchants would make donations of small tools and expendables. Fundraisers were conducted on an almost endless basis, just to secure the essentials for service. Some larger equipment and vehicles were obtained used from local fire departments and through the Federal Surplus Property Agency in Raleigh. Vehicles were parked at local fire stations and members were alerted through a “telephone tree” notification system. Meetings were initially held in the local city hall, fire stations, or library conference room until early 1970, when a local businessman allowed the squad use of a small commercial facility on Arthur Dr. This building became home until 1975 when highway construction would force the squad to seek temporary quarters on Winston St. in the downtown section until 1976. The squad was able to obtain a loan to purchase a new hevrolet panel van which served initially as the rescue truck for approximately 10 years and then as a utility vehicle and water rescue truck for five additional years. Additional vehicles included two “low top” style ambulances donated by local funeral homes and a one-ton utility truck donated by the city that was outfitted with a surplus military generator and lights to serve as an emergency lighting unit.
In the mid 1970’s, the squad was accepted as a recipient agency of the Thomasville United Way, and additionally granted a small stipend from both city and Davidson County governments which allowed the agency to concentrate their fundraising efforts to secure a permanent facility. Property was purchased in 1975 and construction began in early 1976, with the completion and dedication in June of 1976. In early July of 1976 the squad took delivery of its Hurst Rescue Tool and components. This was the second such tool in the county and only the fourth in the state. On July 5th the tool was used in the first of many extrications resulting in a life saved. That tool is still in service with only minor modifications.
Thomasville Rescue has continually taken a pro-active stance toward training and service provision. The squad was the first local agency to send personnel to the NC Rescue College and the NC Rescue Institute. Involvement in the “First Responder” program was a natural progression since members had been providing assistance to EMS units for several years prior to the official adoption of the program. This trend continued with the squad heavily supporting the community college efforts to provide locally available training. In addition to Emergency Medical Technician training and Hazardous Materials classes, the squad was instrumental in introducing Davidson County to the age of Technical Rescue with the community college sponsoring the first Trench Rescue class held in North Carolina. Heavily attended by squad personnel, the next step was to work toward a response team with equipment and training to handle these emergencies. This effort was as a result of two cave-in incidents in the previous year that resulted in serious injury, but thankfully no fatalities. This was a painfully slow process, taking almost three years before the team was truly ready to operate. Funding for the equipment was raised through donations from private citizens, civic organizations and commercial contractors. This team operates within and beyond county lines, having been called as far west as Catawba County, and placed on stand-by on numerous occasions for incidents at even farther distances.
All the while, the squad continued to respond to an ever increasing demand for service, both as a Rescue and as a Medical First Responder agency. However, in the early 1990’s the squad sold its remaining ambulance. With EMS at a high level of proficiency and plagued by increasing insurance costs and vehicle upkeep, it was felt that this was a sound decision. The squad continued to train and prepare its personnel to deliver services based on the primary mission, RESCUE. Since 1990 personnel have attended training programs in a large number of East Coast states, Texas, and the NASA Ames Research Center in San Jose, CA, with most of the cost being borne by the individuals. These training programs have allowed the squad to progress to its current levels of proficiency.
In July of 2000, the squad was inspected by the NC Association of Rescue and EMS for compliance with the new voluntary consensus standard for Heavy Rescue. This standard looks at both equipment and personnel training. In addition to meeting and exceeding the standard requirements, the squad also secured certifications in 10 specialty service levels. Specialist certification inspection looks at the agency capabilities above and beyond Heavy Rescue criteria. Those specialties included: Trench Rescue, Confined Space Rescue, Structural Collapse Rescue, Swift Water Rescue, Industrial Rescue, Agricultural Rescue, Air Operations, High Level Rescue, Search Operations, and Heavy Vehicle Rescue. Also noteworthy is the fact that Thomasville Rescue is one of only three certified Heavy Rescues in Davidson County and one of less than 150 statewide. Additionally, the squad is the only certified Structural Collapse team in the county and the only agency to fulfill the requirements for the ten specialty levels. Thomasville Rescue is classified by both the NC Emergency Management and the NC Association of Rescue and EMS as a Type-3 resource which indicates the agency is fully equipped, self-sufficient, and capable of independent operation during a disaster situation.
Through the years, the squad has employed a number of vehicles to serve the ever-growing service requirements. Currently our fleet includes a 1996 FL-80 Freightliner with a 16’ walk-around rescue body used as the Heavy Rescue truck, a 2010 Chevrolet 3500 Dually 4x4 with a 9’ walk-around rescue body used as a combination Light Rescue and medical Quick Response Vehicle, a 2013 Chevrolet Captiva as a medical QRV, and a 1997 International Tractor and 36’ Mickey beverage style trailer outfitted as an Urban Search and Rescue truck used for cave-in and building collapse incidents. In addition to the vehicles, the squad maintains one Zodiac inflatable boat for swift-water rescue, and an 18 ‘ Dive / Swift-water Rescue equipment trailer that can outfit ten Swift-water techs.
Thomasville Rescue include an all-volunteer staff of 43 personnel, many of which are both general squad members and one of the states first ever USAR-Urban Search and Rescue Team specialists. The Urban Search and Rescue team members are a highly trained division of the squad, with its members being capable of response to anywhere in North Carolina for a full 72 hour or longer deployment period with a two hour or less mobilization notice. Their mission includes response to catastrophic events such as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and other major emergencies such as structural collapse and cave-ins.
The quest continues however, because the demand for service is unrelenting and the cost spirals upward each year. To stop or even slowdown is the same as putting the agency in reverse. New training and skills are implemented regularly and while the personnel are committed to put forth their best effort, it becomes increasingly more difficult to meet the demand for service and the demand for fundraising with an all-volunteer group. As the local economy has faltered and donations have diminished, fundraising has become an omnipresent activity with the “Ride to the Rescue” motorcycle ride and poker run as the major spring event and several smaller efforts throughout the summer and early fall.