Snow/ice storm means temporary move for volunteers

By Kevin Boozer

March 11, 2014

PROSPERITY — The February snow and ice meant Alex Bedenbaugh and Zander Cotney found some new digs, temporarily at least, when they volunteered to move into the Station 17 Rescue Squad building in Prosperity for the duration of the storm.

With icy, snowy conditions increasing, a should be three to five minute home-to-station-response to around 10 minutes ore more, the two knew that being on site would help not only the people calling the station but help keep their brothers and sisters with the 25-person squad safe.

They were there to prevent a rushed response by a volunteer leaving his or her home, something that could have put a volunteer and the person he or she was trying to help at risk.

“Our guys came in Tuesday evening as the roads deteriorated and stayed until Thursday when the roads cleared,” said Glenn Hamm, assistant chief at Station 17, Newberry County Emergency Services and Dive Team Leader for Newberry County Emergency Services.

“They were a huge help and responded to several medical calls while there,” he added. “We also had multiple calls for downed trees and power lines. The two young men dedicated at least 48 solid hours of manpower to Station 17.”

Hamm was close enough he could be at home and still respond to calls but said he spent a lot of time with the two guys and going to rescue calls.

The Prosperity Rescue Squad cooked out of the station and served a lunch of beef stew and grilled cheese sandwiches to the town of Prosperity Public Works crews.

Adam Crouch also was there unless he was called out by the S.C. Highway Patrol.

Alex Bedenbaugh has been with Station 17 since December 2013 and he volunteered with the local fire department since 2012.

The former Marine who served two tours in Afghanistan from 2008-12 is now a Piedmont Tech student studying nursing with goals of becoming a flight nurse.

He pursued as much medic training while in the Marines as he could. He has battlefield first aid experience and training from the military but now he is receiving training that will transfer over into the civilian world.

This was his first time working a snow and ice event with the rescue squad.

“We were there in case we got a call so people would not be rushing to calls and causing wrecks,” he said. “Zander (Cotney) gave me a call because when it snowed the first time (this year) I stayed up with him all night at the station.”

A “family thing”

Bedenbaugh said his grandfather was a founding member of the Prosperity Rescue Squad and his father was a volunteer firefighter in Johnston, so service is a family thing.

Cotney agreed, saying he joined the rescue squad at the advice of friends and family.

Zander Cotney has served three years on the rescue squad and started alongside family and friends from the Prosperity area. When not working with Sease’s Tree Service, the 22-year-old spends a lot of free time with the rescue squad.

“It’s something I always wanted to do and I enjoy it, especially serving the community,” he said.

“We knew the storm was coming and that we had to be prepared to respond. We had equipment ready but could only get one truck out then.”

So Cotney left his family and home and camped out in the rescue squad building.

The pair shoveled snow and ice from around the station garage doors.

“We put as much equipment as we could onto the truck that had four-wheel drive,” Cotney said.

Bedenbaugh said the majority of their calls came on the final day of the storm when snow started melting and limbs started falling.

“It’s a selfless job, but (like in the military) you get to help people when they need it,” Bedenbaugh said.

Long praises volunteers

Tommy Long, emergency service coordinator over volunteers for fire and rescue squads in Newberry County, said they are indebted to volunteers going the extra mile to serve the public.

“Luckily our departments had people willing to spend the night at the station so they would not have to come out from their residences,” Long said. “The younger generation of folks who are not married and don’t have families of their own at home can come in and be on standby for events like those ice storms.”

There are more four wheel drive vehicles in the rescue side of things than on the fire side but there are no vehicles in the fleet with chains on the tires.

Long said it’s hard to invest in that technology because snow/ice events are so rare in the area.

“Still it is better to take extra time to get there versus not getting there. If we don’t get there and have to send someone else, that slows our response time even more. If things are bad enough we would send a wrecker along with a call to help. Driveways are our biggest challenge because things can get treacherous in and around driveways,” he said.

Those efforts, including the Newberry County Sheriff’s Office providing transportation for critical personnel at nursing homes and hospitals, were coordinated in part with the Emergency Operations Center. In that center, Long pulls in department heads from law enforcement, county council and other government entities to help run the EOC so the major decision makers are in one room.

One area Long oversaw was deploying resources (such as wreckers to go with EMS calls) if needed. Though EMS mutual aid to other counties was not required during the storm, that is another call his office makes.

“It’s hard to know exactly what Mother Nature will do so it’s best to err on the side of safety,” he said.

A fire and rescue volunteer since 1985, Long began his current position with the county in 2008.

He thanked volunteers for their service and also called for other service-minded individuals to consider fire or rescue squad positions.

“We are always looking for volunteers. There are different jobs and schedules that can accommodate retirees, older folks or young people,” he said.