Pembroke Rescue Squad, Inc. has a vibrant and dynamic history. Originally known as Pembroke’s Civil Service Patrol, the squad was established in 1956. The tasks assigned to the founding members of the squad are quite different than those now. Not only were those founding members charged with providing emergency medical care, they quite frequently could be seen patrolling the town and assisting the town’s only full time law enforcement officer, Percy Brooks.
However, as the town grew the two entities separated, and eventually giving birth to the incorporation of Pembroke Rescue Squad, Inc. in 1977. However, the squad was alive and well before the incorporation, and even before the building the squad currently uses as its headquarters located on Union Chapel Road. It was in the old town hall and police department that the squad parked their only vehicle, a Volkswagen Bus.
Over time the squad expanded but it was a rather subtle growth, eventually branching out of the town hall building for one lent to the squad by a Mrs. McCormick. This building was essentially a two bay garage in which the squad saw an opportunity to expand by purchasing another vehicle, this vehicle was to be deemed Pembroke’s first ambulance, and it was a station wagon. Former Commander J.W Oxendine remarked about the first ambulance in saying, “There were few supplies, just things to bandage patients up with, and splint arms, ambulance services have come a long way, when I started in 1972, we didn’t have gloves, only one radio, the best thing we could do was load them and go.” The McCormick building housed the squad until it became incorporated in 1977, the building was erected at 210 Union Chapel Rd. by the community.
In several interviews with former members of the time, they gave great accounts of how the community was instrumental in assisting in the construction of the building. Churches held plate sales sending the proceeds to the squad to purchase building equipment, members of the community dedicated there weekends to laying block, several accounts call into recollection the utilization of trucks owned by the local electric companies to set the trusses. The squad has since expanded in a way that many of the interviewed members deem, “phenomenal.”
October 2016: Hurricane Matthew pushed across North Carolina bringing devastating flooding to the Pembroke area. Pembroke Rescue Squad members and volunteers had been laboring the week prior to Matthews’ landfall preparing. They had stockpiled water, extra medical supplies, food to feed first responders, and they were preparing sleeping areas to shelter the extra first responders that it brought in to assist with hurricane response. Little did they know, they would be evacuating their own station shortly before daybreak. Pembroke Rescue Squad’s headquarters ended up under 36 inches of water, ruining most of the rescue equipment and destroying a rescue truck. The Squad quickly adapted and went into response mode. They relocated the apparatus, supplies, and personnel to the Pembroke Police Department. Then they evacuated more than 200 flood victims from floodwaters. The Squad spent the next 13 months in a rental unit while their station at the time was repaired.
September 2018: Hurricane Florence produced over 30 inches of rain in the state of North Carolina. Pembroke Rescue Squad’s station at the time flooded once again. While the flooding had lasting effects on the Squad, it did not prevent the Squad from conducting 150 water rescues and transporting 64 flood victims to local shelters during the hurricane and its aftermath. The flood damage to the station was structural and was not cost-effective to repair. The fact that the Squad once again had been forced to evacuate its headquarters, leaving first responders without a shelter, the community without an emergency operations center or a point of distribution for essential supplies following the hurricane prompted the Pembroke Rescue Squad’s move to its new Station.
The Station is situated on a 5-acre lot. Located at 564 Candy Park Road. The current premises were purchased by Pembroke Rescue Squad in August 2019. Prior to August 2019, Pembroke Rescue Squad operated out of a headquarters located elsewhere in town and experienced multiple flooding events that prompted the move to the new premises but did not prevent the Rescue Squad from carrying out many of its core lifeline functions (see inset). The Squad’s current premises are located outside of a flood-prone area. Pembroke Rescue Squad’s new Station consists of an 8500 square foot steel building that was constructed in 2012. Last December, Pembroke Rescue Squad was awarded a grant from the Golden Leaf Foundation and The Cannon Foundation to complete construction of a 10,000 square foot addition as well as complete modifications to the existing building. The addition and modification, scheduled for completion in October 2021, will consist of an apparatus bay, kitchen facilities, shower and restroom facilities, decontamination facilities, and storage.
In addition to enabling the Squad’s core EMS and Rescue functions, the Station has become a community center that addresses a community needs to provide a safe and secure location for sheltering during hurricanes; it offers space for community events, and it has been instrumental during the COVID-19 pandemic for dispersing food and supplies in a drive-through manner and for providing a Wi-Fi service free of charge to children who are learning online due to COVID-19.