Elkin Rescue Squad turns 80

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In the 1970s, the team began using the Hurst Jaws of Life tool, allowing members to use more advanced rescue techniques.

Courtesy: Elkin Rescue Squad

Their technology has evolved from large household radio equipment to pagers, smartphones and smartwatches.

Their toolboxes once consisted of basic craft saws and now come with cordless battery systems.

And yet, as the group observes 80 years of activity this year, some things about the Elkin Rescue Squad have never changed. One of those constants is that the team – one of the first in the state – continuously served as a team of volunteers with a 24/7 emergency response capability.

The team was founded on June 25, 1941 by Roy H. Kane, who was its first captain. Prior to forming the Elkin Squad, Kane helped form a squad at Winston-Salem in 1937, which was the first Rescue Squad in North Carolina, according to Tim Darnell, First Lieutenant and Rescue Squad Communications Manager. Elkin.

“We are 100% volunteers, there is no one paid here,” said Darnell of the 29 members.

The squad assists other emergency personnel in more than one call per day on average. In 2019, the team responded to 679 calls. Their numbers for 2020 fell at the height of the pandemic, dropping to 439 calls. So far this year they have been sent out on around 300 calls.

Lois Suddreth joined us in 1995 when her children moved out and she became an empty breeder, eventually graduating as an emergency medical technician.

“We basically do everything the EMS does,” Suddreth explained. “We are always shipped when they are shipped. Sometimes it’s a doctor call to a house where someone has had a fall, or really any type of injury that people might have at home.

She said other types of frequent calls are car wrecks and fires.

The team’s capabilities include water rescue, wilderness rescue, confined space rescue, and height rescue, which involves the use of ropes and rappelling – for example, from the side of a cliff or building – to carry out rescues.

Team member Chuck Holcomb, 66, was a member of Surry Community College’s first EMT class in the fall of 1976, which consisted of roughly 80 hours of class and 10 hours in hospital, he recalls. As with many volunteer emergency service groups, participation tends to be within families. Holcomb’s father was on the team, as was his wife, who died in April. In December 2000, Holcomb was elected a life member.

“So I can’t stop and they can’t stop me from entering,” he said.

Holcomb remembers a heartbreaking call he made years ago.

“A garbage truck overturned on CC Camp Road and killed a few women,” he said. “There was a baby seat in the back of their car and we looked everywhere to try to find this baby.”

The ladies, who were in town for a wedding, had left the baby at home and the baby was fine.

Charlie Harris, 73, has been on the team since 1975 and has “been anything but a chef, I think,” he said.

Harris recalled that the founder of the team – Kane – was a charismatic figure for him and for most members of the community.

“She was such a nice person that you could meet,” said Harris.

Another member of the team, James Anderson, 64, agreed.

“The dedication that went into forming this organization,” said Anderson, who joined while still in high school. “I could see very early on when I was on the team that he had been a mentor to a lot of people. You always had a lot of respect for him.

Harris and Anderson remember working on a foggy night in February 1975 when a bridge collapsed at Siloam and cars left in the river.

“We did some research on the river that night and all day the next day,” Harris said. “I think it was two days before we found the last one.”

Both mentioned that support services for emergency personnel have evolved since that time, recognizing the personal toll the work can take on rescuers.

They said the call that perhaps touched them the most was a call that found five children who perished after falling through ice on a frozen lake.

“If that were to happen today, now we have groups coming together and you talk about bad calls,” Anderson said. “Back then, we had to take care of it ourselves,” and he put his hand on his heart.

The team is now strong, now around 30 members, although most are also members of other emergency service groups such as paid or volunteer positions with the fire services. At their last regular monthly meeting on a Tuesday evening, the group sat at folding horseshoe-shaped tables in the Squad Room on North Bridge Street.

They discussed upcoming training opportunities for wilderness and water rescue, as well as their annual fundraiser for the golf tournament in the fall and the need to bring in more ranger donations. -eat. They stayed in the evening, even after the conclusion of their official business.

Like the volunteer fire departments, many fear that the culture change will limit the ranks of volunteers as time goes on. Once upon a time, large employers in Elkin allowed volunteers to leave their jobs to go on calls. This does not happen rarely anymore.

“Employers are so small that they can’t let people go,” Anderson said. “There will come a time when there will be no more volunteers.

For now, however, the dedication of the men and women of the Elkin Rescue Squad persists.

Lisa Michals can be reached at 336-448-4968 or follow her on Twitter @ lisamichals3.


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