Carter County Rescue Squad sees little change since Sept. 11

By Megan Harrell
Star Staff
mharrell@starhq.com

  
During the hours following the Sept. 11 attacks it felt as though the nation had few places to turn to for security and even less for hope in the future. Then, stories of first responders' heroic acts began making their way across the country. Simply by doing their jobs, firefighters, EMS workers, and policemen and women offered Americans a fragile sense of pride and a glimmer of hope for humanity.
   The magnitude of the scene at ground zero put a spotlight on emergency responders working in metropolitan disasters and created a long deserved respect for rural EMS workers. Comfortingly far away from the spotlight EMS workers across America's rural areas have gone on about their daily routines doing what they have always done only now they do it with a little more respect than before. "We go out there every day. It is just on a small scale, but what we do affects a small town," said Carter County EMS Director Terry Arnold.
   For local first responders, disasters come on a scale proportionate to the size of the area. In April when a Carter County work camp van accident injured 10 people and killed one, the Carter County Rescue Squad was stretched to its limit. If Carter County suffers a major wreck, then it suffers a major disaster. "We used all our resources and had to use mutual aid," Arnold said. "Stuff like that affects us just like the World Trade Center affected New York City. We are still affected by the children, mothers and fathers who get killed in these accidents."
   Since Sept. 11, the Carter County first responders have noticed little change other than a new emphasis on training for hazardous material disasters. Arnold is actively involved in seeking federal grants to finance upgraded HazMat training for special teams. "It costs a lot of money to train people and then nothing happens, but we still have to be trained," Arnold said. "We have to try to be ahead of things in case they do happen."
   Arnold has petitioned the state board EMS in Nashville to require a yearly background check on all first responders and fingerprints to be kept on file. Because first responders have open access to hospitals, Arnold believes these steps will help to ensure the safety of the public. The rescue squad is currently in the process of revamping its identification system as well.