No one wants to think about an interstate pileup happening — much less a major train derailment or industrial mishap that involves victims being entrapped — but if such an emergency does occur, the Mount Airy Rescue Squad is prepared.
As of June 30, it has been certified as a heavy rescue provider by the North Carolina Association of Rescue and Emergency Medical Services Inc.
The Mount Airy Rescue Squad is the sole agency in Surry County with that status, according to its chief, Nathan Webb.
“It is the highest level of certification a rescue squad can have in the state,” he said.
Yadkin and Forsyth are the only neighboring counties with public safety organizations possessing such capability, and the local squad gained that certification “to be a resource for the city and county,” Webb explained.
“We’re a resource now for the whole county as well as the Virginia counties that don’t have that,” the squad official continued, saying those localities otherwise would have to call in an agency from elsewhere. The Mount Airy volunteer organization already has deployed its new capability at the scene of a motor vehicle accident in Cana, Virginia.
It also is able to respond to structural collapses and motor vehicle accidents that might require heavy-duty extrication operations, such as those involving tractor-trailers. Farming accidents or those occurring in an industry where large machinery might be involved are other situations that can be handled by the rescue squad, which additionally is equipped for water rescues.
Much prepping required
The achieving of heavy rescue certification by the local squad did not happen overnight.
“We’ve been working on it for the past four years,” Webb said.
It required much preparation, including new equipment and extra training by members of the unit that has been in operation for 55 years.
And a local business, Riverside Building Supply, played a key role in helping the squad gain the certification and deploy its new function.
“They donated a lot of lumber,” Webb said, amounting to about $1,500 worth. The wood is needed for “cribbing,” which are blocks used to stabilize structures at strategic points while extrication efforts are undertaken.
“Heavy rescue requires a large amount of cribbing,” the squad chief said.
For example, if emergency personnel respond to a tractor-trailer accident or some other mishap involving large items, the cribbing, or wooden blocks — typically of Southern yellow pine or Douglas fir — is used to shore up the trailer or structure. This keeps it from collapsing onto a victim while cutting or other demolition operations are under way.
Each heavy rescue vehicle deployed by an agency — four in the case of the Mount Airy Rescue Squad — must maintain a supply of cribbing aboard.
The lumber donated by Riverside Building Supply for that purpose was cut into blocks by squad members and students at Mount Airy High School.
Riverside Building Supply also donated a K-12 fire and rescue saw to the squad, which can be used to cut through guardrails or other applications at an emergency site.
It was just part of the additional equipment and tools needed for the heavy rescue certification, with state guidelines also specifying other cutting implements, winches and chains, hydraulic spreaders and cutters and more.
“We can literally destroy a vehicle,” squad Capt. Tim George said of its dismantling capabilities at a wreck site. George mentioned that the size of tractor-trailers nowadays requires heavy-duty equipment.
Webb estimates that $10,000 to $12,000 was spent in preparation for the heavy rescue certification over a four-year period. But squad members believe this will be a worthwhile investment in public safety which will pay dividends for many years to come.
“This is just building our repertoire of specialties,” Webb said of the new capability.
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.