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Aulander Rescue rolls again

AULANDER – The state's second oldest all-volunteer rescue squad is alive and well.

Sixteen months after Bertie County Medical Director Dr. Phil Harris ordered members of the Aulander Rescue Squad to cease answering emergency calls, the volunteer unit has found solutions to its problems and has returned to full status.

The Bertie County Board of Commissioners approved that status on Monday night during their regularly scheduled meeting. The Commissioners learned that the Aulander volunteers, effective Oct. 3, will stand ready for calls between the weekday hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. and weekends from 6 p.m. on Friday until 6 a.m. on Monday.

"We just want the citizens of Bertie County, particularly those residing in our service district, to know that we are back, bigger and better than ever," said Chris Bracy who was recently promoted to Captain of the squad.

Bracy, commenting on Tuesday evening during an interview at the Aulander Rescue building, said the squad membership was at its strongest level in recent memory.

"We're 19 strong at this point and still growing," Bracy noted. "I have applications for two additional members, one of which is already EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) certified."

On Monday, Bracy presented the Bertie Commissioners with a membership list. Of the 19 currently onboard, 12 are EMT's.

"I'm really happy for you guys," commented Rick Harrell, chairman of the commissioners. "You guys have really recovered well."

Bracy said all of the issues Dr. Harris had against the squad last year have been fully resolved. Those issues included slow response times, failure to respond, did not participate in the EMS System Plan for Bertie County as is required by the State of North Carolina and failed to participate for 12-plus months in the county's EMS audit review sessions. Due to those problems, Dr. Harris ordered Aulander Rescue to cease operations in May of last year.

"Our biggest problem was lack of membership," Bracy said. "That, in turn, led to the other problems."

Instead of refusing to address those issues and permanently closing the doors on the state's second oldest rescue squad (founded in 1958), the Aulander volunteers went to work for the betterment of their community as well as the rural areas served by the unit.

On Dec. 14 of last year, Aulander Rescue was given clearance to begin operations on a part-time basis (Tuesday and Thursday nights as well as service every other weekend). While Aulander Rescue was in the process of solving their problems, their district was covered by the Lewiston-Woodville and Colerain rescue squads.

"Our goal was to return to full-time status and we have reached that," Bracy said. "I thank those who have volunteered their time and efforts to get us to this point. I thank those in our community who stuck by us and supported us. We now need that continued support."

He continued, "We are here to serve the needs of our friends, neighbors and all in our service district. I assure you that all calls for emergency assistance will be dealt with in a swift and professional manner."

Meanwhile, all EMT's among the squad's membership will meet their mandated 36 hours of annual training. Those striving to become EMT's must first fulfill 170-plus hours of course work and hands-on training to gain certification.

Aulander Rescue Squad continues to operate three vehicles, including a heavy equipped crash truck.

Due to the fact that they receive only $12,000 in operational funds from the county each year, the squad must conduct several fundraisers to help make ends meet.

"Please support us in those fundraisers," Bracy concluded. "By helping us, we are able to help you."