Skip to content Skip to left sidebar Skip to right sidebar Skip to footer

Officers to begin training for emergency services unit

The formation of an emergency service unit is already taking hold in Erwin.
Erwin Police Chief Regan Tilson and Erwin Mayor Doris Hensley recently discussed creating a unit to help assist local fire units and ambulances in the area.
“This is not to take the place of the ambulance authority but to help when needed,” Hensley said during the March 9 meeting of the Erwin Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
It is an idea that the police officers are showing overwhelming support for, according to Tilson.
“In a small town, you know your resources are limited,” he said. “What we’re doing is maximizing our minimal resources, which is a big word for more training.”
One of the uses of the emergency service unit will be assisting with fires across Unicoi County.
“In most cases, in any emergencies, the first ones there are police officers. By nature of the business … we’re already out, we’re on the road on patrol. So more than once, we’ve been the first to a fire. We’ll help until other firemen are there. Sometimes we can use rapid-suppression techniques to put the fire out quickly before it does spread and that’s important in a chimney fire or small electrical fire.
“A scenario, for example, it is 2 a.m. in the morning and the officer is going to be there fairly quickly,” Tilson explained about a house fire. “If there’s someone in there, the officer’s not going to stay outside.”
While the officers already assist to a certain degree, the upcoming training will be with firemen and equip officers with equipment, Tilson said. The training will take place in a house with instructors at the fire department. Equipment put in use will be equipment currently owned by the town. There could be additional cost of some equipment, but the officers would likely use older equipment to assist before the fire department arrives.
“It wouldn’t be cost-intensive,” Tilson said. “It would be training-intensive, but that’s OK.”
There will also be training in conjunction with the firemen for vehicle extrication rescue.
“We’re going to follow that along with ropes training,” he added. “In case you need some type of rope rescue, say down at the pond on the trail or a building collapses. They’ll be able to work with the fire guys so we’ll know what each other needs.
“That doesn’t take away from the role as a police officer. When they first arrive, they have to investigate, but the main thing is to save anyone who is injured then back out when others arrive. We want to use it to help free up the fire department.”
Along with fire, the officers will train with either MedicOne Medical Response or Northeast State Community College emergency medical responder training.
“MedicOne has already offered to provide the training for free,” Tilson said. “We’re just trying to mesh the two and hash out the details. When we’re first on the scene somewhere, we’ll have more knowledge.”
The police department already has an automated external defibrillator (AED) program in place to help provide early intervention during a cardiac arrest. The department also does refreshers every year while keeping their certifications every two years.
“EMS are the professionals there, so we’ll back out,” Tilson said, “but a lot of the time we can be there quickly. Sometimes EMS services can get overwhelmed. They only have two trucks, so if they’re out on calls, and another situation arrises, this training will assist in letting our officers be efficient until EMS can arrive.
“Instead of just doing tactical SWAT training, they’ll be doing medical and fire training to help provide a better service for the citizens. To me, it seems the guys will have to make the decisions on where they’re needed most, but I have confidence they can do that … they already are.”
Fire training for officers is expected to begin in the next two weeks while rescue training will take place within the month as details are finalized with MedicOne and Northeast State.
“We’ll take on more as training progresses to provide a faster intervention,” Tilson said. “Everything’s been ‘approved’ but it’s all about coordinating schedules, training and getting what equipment is needed for officers.”
Brian Glover, of Erwin Health and Homecare, purchased the first AED for the department.
“He really helped us with the program,” Tilson said. “He was involved in a crash and realized we didn’t have those. Health and Homecare provided them to us at his cost, he makes no money, just straight cost.
“Several local business, including Erwin Motors, have also donated. We also have an unanonymous donor that buys pads, an AED or something each year for the department, but doesn’t want any recognition.”
The department has five AEDs that get switched with cruisers at the end of each shift, allowing all cruisers to be prepared in case of an emergency, Tilson added.