Rescue Squad volunteers battle budget woes, theft

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 21, 2003

Most people hope they never have to see the Selma-Dallas County Rescue Squad, but if they do, even more hope they’re well equipped.

The Selma-Dallas County Rescue Squad is responsible for rescue and all the word implies.

If an accident occurs and a victim is trapped in a car, the rescue squad handles the massive &uot;Jaws of Life&uot; and pries them free. If a person is lost or missing in a wooded area, the rescue squad searches with the aid of the Selma K-9 unit and Park Rangers from the surrounding area.

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And, as recently happened, if someone jumps off the Edmund Pettus Bridge or falls into the water, the rescue squad and their volunteer diver helps the marine patrol find the victim.

The entirely volunteer organization is composed of members from all walks of life: nurses, paramedics and law enforcement officials make up their ranks.

Lt. Jasper Bowie of the Selma Police Department joined the squad when he was 15. He’s served with the organization ever since, for a total of 13 years. &uot;I was always helping people,&uot; Bowie said.

Dedication seems to be a hallmark of the job.

Bowie believes his position allows him to serve as a role model for young people, because he joined at such a young age.

Because the squad is composed of so many members from law enforcement and healthcare backgrounds, all of them are constantly in training. Said Bowie, &uot;You can never get enough training. We don’t know when something major can happen. A plane may come along and crash in the river.&uot;

The Selma coroner is a member of the squad and keeps the group certified on CPR and first aid training.

In the event of any natural disaster, the squad is called on to search for victims who may be buried in the rubble of a collapsed structure.

The organization is primarily a privately funded group. Unlike some squads and volunteer fire departments, the Rescue Squad receives donations from Haynes Ambulance Service, Care Ambulance Service, the City of Selma, and private business and individuals.

Still funding is an ongoing problem. After an unidentified culprit broke into its headquarters, the rescue squad was left without flashlights, chain saws, air bottles for their diver, a defibrillator, medical kits and other vital equipment.

The robbery even hindered their search for the body of Melva McWilliams-Cox, who jumped to her death from the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Aug. 8. The rescue squad diver was unable to go into the water without the spare air bottle necessary for a safe dive.

Care Ambulance recently replaced the organization’s medical bags and donated $300 to the group.

Despite this help, the group must still rely on fund-raisers. Car washes, raffle tickets and pool parties at the YMCA help keep the group in the black. Bowie said the group will do anything to get the funds they need. &uot;However we can get money,&uot; he said.

The group is responsible for assisting more than a dozen volunteer fire departments in the area and is constantly ready to serve.

Selma City Councilwoman Rita Franklin said she believes the squad serves a valuable function. This year, Franklin and several other council members used their discretionary funds to help the rescue squad.

Franklin, as head of the Selma Public Safety division, feels the group should be commended. &uot;They work real hard. They need some more money because they have to replace equipment constantly. They just need ongoing support.&uot;

Franklin said she and other members of the council will continue to help the squad. She said, &uot;It’ll be done through discretionary money, as long as we have it.&uot;

Bowie is pleased with the help of the community and the city council. Because of their continued support, the squad has managed to avoid lengthy grant application processes.

He said, &uot;We have been blessed.&uot;