ARLEY - The Winston County Rescue Squad (WCRS) has been certified by the Alabama Department of Public Health Office of EMS and will start providing ambulance service to eastern Winston County on Sunday, Oct. 15, when they will mark the occasion with a ceremony and ribbon cutting at 1 p.m. at the Arley Fire Department.
“There’s a tradition (among) firefighters,” said Pat Hana, president of the WCRS’s board of directors. “When they put a new truck into service, they all get out there and push it up into the bay to show that it’s in service.”
Members of the public are invited out to celebrate the occasion and watch as the WCRS pushes one of its ambulances into its bay at AFD.
“We are bona fide, certified, licensed and everything now,” Hana noted on Sept. 21. “We hope to have ( . . .) a full staff ready to rock on Oct. 15.”
"Everything is on track. It’s going very well. We're in the hiring process right now,” WCRS Operations Chief Cody Wakefield said on Thursday, Oct. 5.
The WCRS now has two ambulances—an Advanced Life Support (ALS) unit and a backup Basic Life Support (BLS) unit, which was donated by Regional Paramedical Services—and a support vehicle known as chase car or chief’s car, a Dodge Charger that Wakefield or the senior paramedic on duty can drive to scenes.
Hana said that in the beginning Wakefield will be the day-shift paramedic while the night shift will be staffed by part-time paramedics stationed at AFD.
Construction of living quarters for WCRS ambulance crews began on the second floor of AFD on Monday, Oct. 2. The Arley Town Council voted that night to withdraw $10,000 from a “fire plug" account funded by a town sales tax for Arley Fire Chief James Rickett to use to cover the cost of the building materials. He had told the council he’d already received a quote of $6,700 from Billy Williams Supply for the majority of the supplies. The construction work is being done by Proctor Contracting, whose owner Mason Proctor donated the labor.
“We’re going to try to get this building done before the fifteenth so they can spend the first night (in the fire department),” Rickett said. When it’s complete, there will be two bedrooms, a bathroom, an office, a day room and storage areas. There is already a kitchen downstairs.
“We will have the (ALS) unit fully staffed 24/7, so there will always be at least a paramedic and EMT available on that unit,” Hana continued. “(On) the BLS unit, we’ll probably have what we call a standby crew at the beginning to be operating as backup, and as time goes by and we get more and more staffed up, then that one will be occupied 24/7 with two people.”
Rickett said donations and grants are what made it possible to obtain the vehicles and equipment the WCRS needed to have before inspection in order to be certified, including a second powered Stryker stretcher.
Wakefield said the stretcher, a power load system for it and a cardiac monitor are being paid for by 75-25 matching grant from the Alabama Council of Emergency Medical Services. The ACEMS is providing $50,000 and the WCRS will pay the remaining 25 percent.
It will be donations that keep the WCRS in operation in the future, too. Wakefield said Cullman Electric Cooperative has agreed to enable residents to make a donation when paying their electric bills. Letters have been sent out to CEC customers requesting a $5 monthly donation from each household in the WCRS’ coverage area.
“I would just encourage everybody if they’re able to help us out with that because it’s going to provide the majority of our funding to help shorten response times to this side of the county,” Wakefield said.
“The saying ‘it takes a village’ certainly rings true for us,” Feist said. “This small-town ‘can do’ attitude and a desire to serve came from all four departments and certainly from Pat Hana. I'm personally very proud to be associated with such great people.”
“We’re just tickled to death to see it’s coming,” Rickett said. “It was just a dream. We’ve been wanting this for twenty-something years or more, and now it’s getting there.”
“I am excited for the folks in our coverage areas,” Tucker said. “The WCRS will be a great asset for all of us on the east side. It gives us peace of mind knowing that when minutes matter help is a lot closer than it used to be. We appreciate all the donations and effort from everyone to get this going, but we will need the support of our communities and some grants to ensure our success in the future.”
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.