Training Teenagers Helps North Carolina Rescue Squad Prepare Future First Responders

Junior program helps the Thomasville Rescue Squad recruit volunteers at an early age.
(Thomasville Rescue Squad inc., photo, Facebook)

Thomasville Rescue Squad creates junior program
to help recruitment

Sharon Myers, The Dispatch, Lexington, N.C.


Apr. 9–Imagine you have been in a car accident. As you are still reeling from the shock, the sounds of sirens can be heard and out of nowhere, a guardian angel dressed as a rescue worker appears by your side bringing with them a sense of safety and security.

But what if they weren’t there? What if you had to wait for the often overworked and under-staffed city or county fire department, police, or emergency services?

It is often a member of a rescue squad that is the first responder to many emergencies, and the better trained and staffed that unit is the more quickly and efficiently they can help those in need.

But a majority of the rescue squads in Davidson County are staffed by volunteers, and recently there have been fewer new members joining and more members aging out.

In an effort to recruit more volunteers at an earlier age, the Thomasville Rescue Squad has implemented a “junior” volunteer squad where teens can get hands-on training, education, and valuable experience before they are even allowed to get their EMT certification.

FirefighterNation: What it Means to be a Junior Firefighter

“We train the juniors just like we train all our other volunteers. When they learn from a younger age they gain professional knowledge and gain skills, so if they decide to go to EMT school they are already above the average student. In the long run, they can get their certification earlier and come straight over as a regular member when they are 18,” said Patricia Doyle, Chief of the Thomasville Rescue Squad.

Chip Sanders, 16, said joining the junior volunteer squad is one of many steps toward his ultimate goal of becoming a first responder. He plans on taking the EMT qualifying exam early so he can get his certification as soon as he turns 18-years-old.

“I thought this was a good opportunity to get experience in medical and rescue,” said Sanders. “One of the biggest things I have learned is that it might be an ordinary day for me, but for these people, it is one of the worst days in their lives. It’s not just about the medical side.”

As part of the program, members of the Thomasville Junior Volunteer Rescue Squad are allowed to train on different equipment and tools with supervision. They are taught how to react to different medical scenarios, they shadow other rescue members during certain calls and they learn how to interact with others during an emergency situation.

“The ultimate goal is if they are interested in emergency rescue, we can show them the ins and outs of the job and when the time comes, they are ready to get their certification…Our juniors have learned a lot, they are dedicated to this place and they enjoy learning; they are not afraid to get their hands dirty,” said Cody Herring, sergeant at Thomasville Rescue Squad.

Sixteen-year-old Ayla Bartels joined the squad because she is interested in working in the medical profession once she finishes school. In the meantime, she is preparing to get her EMT certification as well.

“I think all of this training will help me in the future; I have learned a lot,” said Bartels “I have learned how to talk to patients, and secure a scene… I am thinking about going ahead and taking the test this summer so I will already have everything I need for getting my certification. Our chief stresses to take it seriously, but she also lets us enjoy doing things.”

Ashlynn Eubanks, 18, said she is not planning to work in the medical profession, but she joined the junior volunteer squad for the experience, as well as to gain skills and knowledge.

“If I ever had an emergency, I wouldn’t be sitting there wondering what to do. I have learned a lot of valuable things, how to stabilize a car, how to talk to people, and how to pick up on social cues. Our chief gives us different scenarios and we have to make sure the scene is safe and everyone else is safe.”

Local departments need volunteer firefighters

Not only is the junior volunteer program giving these teens useful information, but it also helps encourage more adults to join the squad in the future.

“We hope this program will put us ahead of the game. Volunteers have been going downward for almost 10 years. This way, we build ownership of the squad; it feels like family so they want to continue volunteering. I see it as we get more members and they get free education and training,” said Doyle.

Although several of the junior volunteers said they will be going away for college, some hope to return to the area where they can continue to become full-fledged volunteers.

“I think it is important to have rescue volunteers. You can have a job and get paid for it, but when you volunteer you are doing it for everyone else. I plan to stay as a volunteer as long as I am in the area,” said Sanders.

Herring said recruitment of new volunteers is of the greatest importance and getting younger people interested at an earlier age can be a big boost overall for the squad.

“Numbers are dropping everywhere,” said Herring. “The biggest issue we have is the members we have are getting older, and not really physically able to do some of the things like the younger members…Through this program, we made it so we can get them trained young and get them ready to be the future of the squad.”

General news reporter Sharon Myers can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @LexDispatchSM.





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