02/13/08 — New headquarters is in works for state's rescue squads group

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New headquarters is in works for state's rescue squads group

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on February 13, 2008 1:51 PM

The North Carolina Association of Rescue and EMS is moving its headquarters to a new location on U.S. 117, three miles south of Goldsboro near the highway's intersection with U.S. 13.

The new facility will permit the organization to do a better job of overseeing the training of the state's 561 ambulance and emergency services units, officials say.

All rescue outfits are not created equal, said Gordon Joyner, the executive director of the association. Their training is what separates them -- training sessions in which, among other things, giant concrete slabs reinforced with steel must be penetrated to reach dummy "victims."

"You don't get many buildings that you can tear down to work in," Joyner said. That means concrete slabs, cemetery vaults and other simulation tools are employed for emergency medical workers learning to deal with disaster-caused wreckage, he said.

The move will give the association staff more room and allow for improved classroom training. Its current location is on U.S. 117 near Wayne Implement Auction.

The new quarters will not only enhance training, it will contain sleeping quarters for association officials who need to work around the clock during disasters. In the past, Joyner said, emergency service personnel often had to spend the night sleeping on the floor.

"I have stayed in the office as much as eight days without leaving," Joyner noted. "I've slept many a night on that floor."

The association manages the benefits and training status of every ambulance and emergency services member in the state -- 27,000-plus people.

The association also administers more than 400 scholarships, which Joyner said sometimes seems to be a full-time job in itself.

The new structure will allow for the intense rescue training that state requirements call for. For example, the qualifying training for structural collapse rescue requires rescuers to work with heavy piece of metal and concrete to simulate the search for victims of building collapses. The work requires tremendous technical expertise in order to save lives, Joyner said.

The rescuers know all too well that when real disaster strikes, real bodies may be alive beneath wreckage weighing in the tons, Joyner said.

"These guys train ... and hope that they never have to use the skills that they learn," the executive director said. "You hope nobody ever has to use these skills. But that ain't the real world."

Work on the new building started in December and Joyner said the association hopes to be able to occupy the building in June. It will give the association about three times as much office space as it has now, he said, as well as more space outdoors. Commercial Designs of Benson is the general contractor for the project.