The two-way radio the squad assigned to me attracted a lot of attention. Sandi had admonished me to keep it with me at all times, so I did. People noticed it and responded to me in ways I had never experience before. That reverent look from the girls at the hospital was one I got frequently. Strangers would approach me and talk to me, apparently enticed by the radio (I doubt they were enticed by my personality; nobody had ever been before I starting wearing a radio). I thought it was all very amusing, since I was an EMS rookie and who knew absolutely nothing about what I was doing or even what was going on around me.
The EMS radio turns out to be the ultimate status symbol of rural Virginia life. Some folks join the rescue squad for the sole privilege of carrying a radio. They never respond to a call, but they always have a radio proudly attached to them, such is the radio's power and status. Among squad members, epic battles and power struggles are fought over radios and radio equipment. There was a furor over a microphone between a former squad officer and Sandi, for example ...
Northumberland County's two other rescue squads, which had existed since the dawn of time, were located at the extreme north and south ends of the county. As a result, those squads needed considerable time to respond to emergencies in the middle of the county. The Mid-County Volunteer Rescue Squad was formed to fill in the gap by establishing a rescue station located in the geographic center. In 1997, Mid-County was a relatively young squad, still proving its merit and, although not strapped for operating funds, had to husband its money.
Mid-County was frugal. The squad had purchased acreage and put up a building, equipped with three ambulance bays, offices, restrooms, and a large meeting room. The land, building, and vehicles were unmortaged, so prudent were the people in control of the squad's finances. The squad had no debts, but its development plans included crew living quarters, a more-or-less commercial kitchen, a stand-by generator to provide electricity in the region's frequent power outages, a new ambulance. The squad would need lots of money in the future to fulfill those plans and needed money now to support the costs of its daily operations--insurance, utilities, building and vehicle maintenance, textbooks, uniforms, medical supplies, and so on.