In its 50th year, the North Mecklenburg Rescue Squad has gone through many changes. But the first responders' volunteer group still has the same mission - to save lives.
"A lot of the members are very proud to be a part of an organization that's been here as long as we've had," said North Mecklenburg Rescue Squad chief John Stroup.
"Not every call is a life-saving call, but the ones that are really count - that's why we do what we do."
On the scene, the squad assists with patient care and does vehicle extrication among other possibly life-saving procedures.
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Members are dispatched where any ambulance goes, although they aren't able to take anyone to the hospital because that is the contractual duty of Mecklenburg County's MEDIC.
"There's not always an ambulance nearby," Stroup explained. "The county ambulance station is here at our station, but those times when we have two or three calls at one time that other ambulance might be coming from further away so we can get there first and initiate care."
Each of the 35 members of the squad, most of them volunteers, has a pager that alerts them of any emergency.
Squad members, who range from having nearly 40 years of experience to only being six months into the job, can get the call at any time - even when they're celebrating birthdays, anniversaries or other festivities.
"Family members are pretty understanding as to why their loved one has to leave and go on a call - that's to help other people in the community out," Stroup said.
The pagers can also go off at late hours of the night and even during their regular jobs.
"We're here 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, so we constantly have to be ready to respond to the next call," Stroup added.
The squad responds to accident and medical calls. They have a couple of paid emergency medical technicians during the day and one during the night.
"That at least gets the truck out the door," Stroup said.
At first, the rescue squad served the entire northern part of the county - including Huntersville, Cornelius, Davidson and even parts that have been since annexed into the city of Charlotte.
Today, it only serves the eastern half of Huntersville, but it remains the busiest first responder in the county level - not including Charlotte Fire Department.
Even with fire departments taking care of first response duties through the years, the squad received 2,324 calls - an average of more than six calls a day - during 2009.
Stroup said most of the calls are medical-related, ranging from falls with injury to chest pains and heart attacks.
"We cover everything," he said. "If it's in our area we'll go."
Members, who have to commit to working at least 12 hours a month, have to attend meetings and get monthly medical training to remain EMT-certified so they can continue working for the rescue squad.
They also train in vehicle extrication, rope training and other forms of rescue in case those skills are needed in an emergency.
Stoup, 32, added that members had about 2,000 hours worth of combined training last year.
Although the rescue squad gets some funding from Mecklenburg County, Stroup said the organization accepts donations because of how expensive maintaining equipment is - whether that is making payments on one of the squad's four trucks or buying personal protective gear.
"If it says rescue, fire or EMS it's probably twice what you would pay for it normally," Stroup explained.
But he added that the organization doesn't get many donations.
"A lot of the people don't realize we're even here," Stroup said. "In a lot of places fire departments do the medical and the firefighting."
The North Mecklenburg Rescue Squad held its 50th anniversary banquet earlier this month where former members reunited with some of the people they saved many years ago. The group also held a 7K race in September to commemorate half a century of operations.