Fayette County Technical Rescue Team Celebrates Second Successful Full Year of Service

The Fayette County Technical Rescue Team recently celebrated the completion of their second full year of service at their annual holiday party.  Over two years ago, the Team was created to provide technical rescue capabilities to the citizens of Fayette County and surrounding areas at no additional cost to the taxpayers.  The FCTRT strives to deliver a specialized and professional response to any emergency it is called to and the Team is designed to supplement and assist local emergency responders in the discharge of their duties by providing technical rescue services in the pursuit of the protection of life and property.  The purpose of the Team is to provide a nucleus of highly trained special rescue personnel to deal with different types of situations that the Team is capable and prepared to respond to and who continually train for these types of unique and unusual situations.

As part of their holiday celebration, the Team awarded their Officer of the Year and Member of the Year Awards.  Major Brandon Bagwell was chosen as the 2011 Officer of the Year and Private Mac Cross was chosen as the 2011 Member of the Year.  Both members are extremely active in the Team’s operations and were charter members.

Technical rescue is the use of specialized rescue equipment and technical rescue skills for rescue and emergency events that are “outside the norm” of a typical emergency call for the local fire departments and emergency response agencies.  The FCTRT will literally spend hundreds of hours training for an emergency event that may only occur in its response area once every couple of years.

“When this Team was chartered over two years ago there was an extreme amount of skepticism on the part of local emergency response agencies as to what we were attempting to do, how we were going to do it, and why.  I think anytime something new and unique is started there is always a certain amount of healthy skepticism but unfortunately, some misconceptions can also become associated with it,” said Commander Kevin Snider.  “These misconceptions can be further increased by a lack of knowledge and understanding about what we do, why we do it, and the method and manner in which it is done,” said Snider.

Technical rescue is a relatively new area in the emergency services field.  It is an extension of the capabilities of the normal fire-rescue and medical response of the local emergency response agencies.  These will be events that are “outside the norm” of a typical emergency call such as a water rescue incident, wilderness search and rescue incident, trench rescue incident, rope rescue incident, animal rescue incident, or a dive rescue incident.  Thankfully, these incidents are not common in our area and if they would occur, it would only happen maybe once or twice per year.  Thus, it would not be practical or financially prudent for fire departments and emergency response agencies to both fund and train in these types of unique and unusual incidents that rarely happen in our area.  However, if a non-profit private entity could be successfully formed that could raise funds to purchase the unique and expensive equipment without any cost to the taxpayers and the non-profit private entity could be staffed with experienced and highly trained volunteers who are willing to contribute substantial amounts of time to train for these incidents, our area could have technical rescue capabilities if and when it may be needed.

This was the basic premise and reason that the Fayette County Technical Rescue Team was formed and incorporated over two years ago – start an all volunteer technical rescue team in Fayette County that could employ the use of specialized equipment and technical rescue skills for emergency events that are “outside the norm” of a typical emergency call for our local fire departments and emergency response agencies.  This would be accomplished by coordinating experienced volunteers, many of which are already volunteering their time on numerous fire departments and emergency response agencies in Fayette County and the surrounding areas, into a cohesive unit that would purchase equipment though sponsors and grants without taxpayer funds and continually train for unique and unusual situations that may arise.  The Team would be open to members from any emergency services agency and the private sector that wanted to join and be able to provide assistance to anyone irrespective of where the incident occurred or was located.

After thoroughly researching the concept, contacting similar organizations across the United States, and developing a detailed business plan – the Team’s incorporators put their plan in action.  First and foremost, they chartered and lawfully incorporated the Fayette County Technical Rescue Team as a non-profit Tennessee corporation and then obtained Section 501(c)(3) status from the Internal Revenue Service so that all contributions would be tax deductible as allowed by law.  The Team then became a state sanctioned and lawfully recognized rescue squad by becoming Active Unit Members of the Tennessee Association of Rescue Squads.  Next, the Team obtained general liability insurance and workers compensation insurance through VFIS for the safety and security of the Team’s members, the other emergency response agencies that the Team works with, and the public at large.  Finally, the Team’s incorporators put an extensive operations structure in place with directors, officers and members who would implement the Team’s stringent Charter, Bylaws, Standard Operating Procedures and Standard Operating Guidelines.  As part of this implementation process, the Team’s leaders would need to focus their efforts in numerous but equally important areas: membership, fundraising, equipment, training, memberships and alliances, and community outreach.

In regard to membership, the Team’s leaders started with the original incorporators as well as the charter members and then began discussions with the leadership and members of the Rossville Fire Department.  The leaders and members of the Rossville Fire Department not only enthusiastically embraced the idea but each and every officer and member of the Rossville Fire Department joined the Team.  Thus the Team started with 28 charter members in early 2010 and since that time has steadily increased membership to 45 by the end of 2011.  More importantly, the Team now has representatives from numerous fire departments and emergency response agencies from not only throughout Fayette County but all across the mid-south area and is always looking for more volunteers whether in an emergency response capacity or in an auxiliary capacity to assist in operations and the Team’s community outreach programs.

In regard to fundraising, the Team was fortunate to have the initial capital and start-up expenses donated by local residents who were supportive of the Team’s unique concept.  Since that time, the Team has been very blessed in obtaining agency support together with corporate as well as individual supporters and partners which now fully support the operations of the volunteer Team.  The Team currently has 73 agency, foundation, corporate, as well as individual supporters and contributors from all across the mid-south area.  Most notably – the Team has been fortunate to obtain financial assistance and contributions from: United Way of the Mid-South, Assisi Foundation of Memphis, Wal Mart Foundation, The Bank of Fayette County, Magnolia Homes, Methodist Healthcare Fayette Hospital, Somerville Bank & Trust Company, Stacks Stone, Memphis Shades, Thrifty Building Supply, Superior Auto Body, and Rehab Etc.  Since inception, the Team has always exceeded their fundraising goals and also been able to steadily increase their operating budget even in today’s tough economic climate.  The Team does not accept or receive any federal, state, county, or municipal government funding so that there is no cost to the taxpayers for the volunteer Team or its operations.

In regard to equipment, the Team has been very blessed in the specialized and technical rescue equipment and other resources that it has been able to acquire, purchase, and currently has available to respond.  The Team currently has several vehicles, two custom designed cargo trailers, watercraft, and a tremendous amount of specialized technical rescue equipment that is not practical or financially prudent for local agencies and fire departments to purchase.  In addition, the Team is in the process of acquiring and purchasing new items for 2012 such as a custom designed dive boat, side scan sonar, underwater dive masks and wireless communications for its dive unit, and numerous other items so that the Team can stay on the “cutting edge” of technology to make its operations safer and more efficient.  Moreover, the Team has formed alliances with other rescue organizations and agencies for additional resources (if needed) such as additional vehicles, additional watercraft, additional ATV’s, additional side scan sonar, search dogs, heavy rescue equipment, and numerous other items.  

In regard to training, the Team completes extensive training each year and also trains nearly every single weekend.  The certified training is conducted externally through certified and recognized training agencies like the Tennessee Association of Rescue Squads, Dive Rescue International, National Association for Search and Rescue, Rescue 3 International, and numerous other prominent and nationally recognized training organizations.  In addition, the Team also completes internal training and regularly conducts Operational Readiness Exercises in all of their response disciplines.  In this regard, the members of the Team are externally certified through recognized training agencies and then those skills are enhanced and expanded through internal training and additional drills.  Moreover, all training modules strictly adhere to and in most cases exceed the national standards for technical rescue professional qualifications and the standards for operations and training for technical rescue as promulgated by NFPA 1006 and NFPA 1670.

In regard to memberships and alliances, the Team is an Active Unit Member of the Tennessee Association of Rescue Squads and has formed alliances with the Rossville Fire Department, Search Dogs South, and the Kelsey Canine Medical Center and holds active Team memberships with the National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR), the International Association for Dive Rescue Specialists (IADRS), the International Rescue and Emergency Care Association (IRECA), the National Association of Volunteer Search and Rescue Teams (NAVSAR), and the Mid-South Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (Mid-South VOAD). 

In regard to community outreach, the Team has been extremely active in community education and assisting the citizens and local emergency response agencies in both Fayette County and all across the mid-south area.  The Team regularly conducts free American Heart Association CPR classes, free American Heart Association first aid classes, free emergency vehicle operator course classes, free blood borne pathogen classes, free vehicle extrication classes, and other free rescue workshops and support along with school, business, and community presentations. 

After two full years of volunteer service to Fayette County and all across the mid-south area, the success of the Team has been remarkable.  The FCTRT has worked with numerous state, county, and local emergency response agencies as well as law enforcement organizations and has completed: 21 activations and deployments from Dyersburg to Tunica assisting emergency response agencies; 19 presentations to local emergency response organizations and agencies; 13 school, business, and community presentations emphasizing safety/emergency response procedures; 9 free CPR classes certifying over 100 citizens and local emergency responders; 3 EVOC, VKF, and BBP class certifying over 35 local emergency responders; 4 vehicle extrication classes certifying over 75 local emergency responders from over 7 different fire departments; 34 external training programs for our members from Memphis to Pigeon Forge and from Louisville, Kentucky to Bentonville, Arkansas; 46 internal Operational Readiness Exercises for our Team members; over 4500 hours of cumulative internal and external training with the most active members averaging over 400 hours (this is in addition to each Team member’s prior training and agency training that they are affiliated with or employed by).

“As the Commander of the Team, I am truly thankful for the generous amount of community support our Team has received over the past two years and humbled that our Team has been repeatedly requested by numerous emergency response agencies in both Fayette County and all across the mid-south area to provide help and support.  As a resident and taxpayer of Fayette County, I am thankful that this type of specialized asset is based in Fayette County and available, if called, to our local fire departments and emergency response agencies without any cost to the taxpayers.  As an elected official in Fayette County, I am perplexed and concerned that the Team’s resources and services are not being fully utilized by all of our local fire departments and emergency response agencies in today’s tough government funding climate and in these types of unusual incidents where minutes do count,” said Commander Snider.  “We are based in Fayette County and ready to assist in any capacity we can but as a private entity, many citizens probably do not realize that we cannot respond for assistance by supplementing your local fire department or emergency response agency unless we are specifically called by them.  Hopefully, over time, these local fire departments and emergency response agencies will start to fully utilize the substantial benefit of our free and volunteer services.  After all, it doesn’t make logical sense for a government entity to pay for training when you can receive the same training free of charge and you can obviously never have too many resources, specialized equipment, and highly trained personnel on any emergency scene,” said Snider.

If you are interested in joining, assisting, donating, or just looking for more information about the Team – please visit their website at www.technicalrescueteam.com, visit them on Facebook, or call them anytime at (901) 496-6800.