Morgan County Rescue Squad on duty 24/7 to serve the publicPublished 3:29pm Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Morgan County Rescue Squad is a professional organization that provides rapid response rescue and recovery services for Morgan County residents, including land search, cave rescue, high angle rescue and all water-related incidents.
It has 60 members, all volunteers, each of whom has a specialty that is geared to helping people in need. Twenty-two of its members are certified divers and several are emergency medical technicians. All are committed to a “We Care” motto and are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Approximately one-half are trained fire fighters and actively involved in one of the county’s rural volunteer fire departments.
The rescue squad was founded in 1962 under the name of Flint Rescue Squad and renamed in 1987 after its operations were expanded to cover the entire county. At that time, there was neither money nor equipment available for the rescue team. The first dragging operation was accomplished with a borrowed boat.
Since that time the squad has acquired the up-to-date vehicles and equipment needed to have an efficient operation. The pride of its water fleet is a $200,000 in-cabin Sea-Ark boat, which was purchased in 2006. This vessel is equipped with side scan sonar and is capable of transporting and treating patients until they can be placed in an ambulance on shore. It also has the capacity to tow larger boats.
The fleet also includes three smaller rescue boats, multiple drag boats and trailers, a cave and land rescue trailer, a dive team trailer and four motor vehicles for emergency response and towing uses.
The rescue squad operates on an annual budget of between $70,000 and $80,000 and receives about 30 percent of its revenue from TVA payments in lieu of taxes and the remainder from local government appropriations and fundraisers.
Unlike Morgan County’s volunteer fire departments, it receives no tax revenue. However, a local bill was approved in the last session of the state legislature to allow for the collection of voluntary donations from boat owners at the time they purchase or renew their boat tags, according to rescue squad chief Danny Kelso.
“It would really help us if boat owners would donate $1 or $2 when they buy their licenses,” Kelso said. “Some of our vehicles and equipment are getting old and need replacing, and the only building we’ve ever occupied needs repairs and improvements.”
“For the first time this year, we’re reaching out to the smaller municipalities in the county and requesting an appropriation for the 2013-2014 fiscal year,” Kelso added. “We offer assistance to their police and fire departments anytime we’re needed, assist the EMA in disaster rescue and recovery and provide transportation for doctors and nurses to and from hospitals during inclement weather.”
The rescue squad also offers educational programs on water safety to Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, special needs children, students and vrious community groups and organizations on request. EMT service is also provided for public events that attract large crowds.
“With all of the activity on our waterways, this is our peak season for responding to emergency calls,” said Kelso. “About 99 percent of our calls are for water rescue and recovery. So far this year, we have responded to 93 calls.”