Knoxville Volunteer Rescue Squad celebrates 60 years of emergency care


KNOXVILLE (WATE) – They climb in trenches, caves, and into the deepest parts of our lakes to rescue us. Those are the brave men and women part of the Knoxville Volunteer Rescue Squad.

It’s an organization with a rich history, forming in October 1956 because of a tragic emergency. Soon after, the Knoxville community asked for a rescue squad. That’s when 10 men met in a garage on Rutledge Pike and decided to take a first-aid course. Over the last 60 years, everything in the organization has evolved.

Hundreds of typewritten, tattered and aged missions are catalogued with pictures in a scrapbook of sorts.

“A lot of times you didn’t have the training or equipment to do stuff and you kind of operated on instinct,” said Rick Harrington, longtime paramedic with the Knoxville Volunteer Rescue Squad.

He joined the ranks of the rescue squad in 1973.

“I think one reason this squad has survived this long is we try to look at the big picture and see things that need to be done,” said Harrington.

Years ago, there were challenges getting equipment and filling the gaps in emergency care.

“Used to, we used grappling hooks on ropes to drag the river for people and now we even have drones, underwater drones and cameras,” said Harrington.

Today many of us are familiar with the emergency scenes this elite crew rushes to. Much has changed even in the last 30 years.

“Technology, equipment, trucks, everything’s gone up. Expectations and level of service that we try to provide,” said Deputy Chief John Whited.

Rescuers now do a lot of work, a lot of studying, and a lot of practice to be on the rescue squad.

“Not everybody can do it. Not everybody can dive in a lot of the areas we dive in for rescue and you’re doing it all by feel. So, it takes a lot of work,” added Deputy Chief Whited.

It’s an organization that’s growing too. There are more than 140 members who volunteer their time adding up to 40,000 hours every year.

“I think the future looks great. I think we’ve got to continue to adapt and change and fill that void,” added Deputy Chief Whited.

It’s interesting for Harrington to look back on yesterday because one thing has always, and will continue to be, a constant in an organization built on change.

“You try to make somebody’s worse day a little bit better. That’s what it’s all about,” he said.

The rescue squad has four stations located in Knox County and last year the organization decided to hire three full-time members to run on emergencies for better coverage.

More online: Knoxville Volunteer Rescue Squad

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