The first organizational meeting of the squad was held in late 1957. A volunteer rescue squad was needed in the Cave Spring area since the Salem and Roanoke crews were a long distance away. At the time the Cave Spring area was mostly rural. Mr. Robert L. Monahan was the main individual behind the organization of the crew. He was assisted by Tredway Coleman, who was the Civil Defense Chief of Roanoke County. Monahan, along with 12 charter members and some help from the Cave Spring Fire Department, started the organization. The original 13 members were sworn in on the 24th of April in 1958 by the Civil Defense. The newly formed squad planned to start serving the community on the the 6th of May, but actually ran its first call on the 3rd of May 1958 at the Vinton Dogwood Festival. The first ambulance was a 1951 Cadillac donated by the Army. When it arrived, the members had to paint and equip the unit. The unit was housed in a single car garage next to what is now the Coffee Pot Restaurant on Brambleton Avenue. The building only had room for the unit and when meetings were held, the unit had to be parked outside.
In its first year of existence, the squad ran 32 calls. During the first full year of service, the crew set up a formal communications system to dispatch its members to the station. A phone network was established and anyone in need would call the Monahan residence. They would in turn contact members by phone so they could respond to the station to get the ambulance. At that time, a few members were certified in Advanced First Aid, while the majority were trained at the weekly meetings held at the building. The membership of the crew had grown to 15 members, mostly made up of local residents. Many times the squad was called to drag the Roanoke River and Smith Mountain Lake for drowning victims.
In 1962, the crew needed more space, so it signed a lease agreement with D.L. Ferguson to rent a small one-bay building on Brambleton Avenue for $1.00 a year. During that year, the crew moved the ambulance and the other equipment to the new building. They also purchased a rescue truck to help handle the increase in call volume. The new rescue truck was a 1954 Panel Wagon which was puchased second-hand for $1,000. Two additional phones were purchased and installed in other member’s homes to help take some of the burden off the Monahan family. During that year the number of calls had climbed to 105 as the Cave Spring area grew in size.
In 1963 the membership had increased to 19 members which helped reduce a growing manpower shortage. A second ambulance was purchased. It was a new 1963 Ford station wagon from Magic City Motors at a cost of $2,400. It was put into service in early February of 1963. Diamond Chevrolet donated a 1963 Chevrolet station wagon. This was used to replace the original unit, which was passed on to the newly forming Bent Mountain Rescue Squad. After the addition of this new unit, it was decided that a small carport would be added to the existing building. This was completed using donated materials. During the winter months, heat lamps were placed inside the ambulances parked outside to keep the equipment warm.
In 1964 a brand new Chevrolet Impala station wagon was purchased to replace one of the earlier units. Stand-by duty teams were established to ensure coverage for calls. The Junior Crew was formed to help reduce the manpower shortage. It consisted of four members in its first year of existence.
In 1965 the crew realized that a larger building would be needed since the Cave Spring area continued to experience rapid growth. Many sites were evaluated, but the decision was made to add onto an existing building located at 3309 Brambleton Avenue. Plans were completed and modifications began as soon as funds were available. The rapid growth also caused a major increase in the number of automobile accidents. Since the crew’s 1954 rescue truck was worn out and had a limited amount of room, the crew decided to buy a new truck from Magic City Motors. This new truck was the most modern crash truck in the area. It was one of the first to use four-wheel drive. Manual hydraulic tools and many other new extrication tools were placed on the squad.
In 1973, the first set of Hurst Jaws of Life Hydraulic tools were purchased. Cave Spring was one of the first crews in the area to have this new state-of-the-art extrication tool. Radio dispatching was just starting to be used. This was significantly faster than the old method using the phone system.
In 1974, the crew ordered two new Dodge van ambulances. One of the old vans was sold to Chamblisburg Rescue Squad in Bedford County, VA. These were the first custom ambulances purchased by the crew. They allowed for increased room for the squad members and the patient. In the same year, one of the first EMT classes was held at Cave Spring. There were 69 students enrolled in this first class. The membership had grown to over 35 members.
In 1976, the squad began work on a new custom-built crash truck. This unit was eventually put in service in early 1977. One of the more unique features was the power take-off winch located in the front bumper. The body of the truck was purchased from Beach Brothers Dodge.
1977 marked the beginning of a new era. Cave Spring Rescue Squad was one of the first crews in the valley to provide Advanced Life Support (ALS). Members responded to all parts of Salem and Roanoke to provide ALS care. An additional ambulance was purchased that was equipped with a LifePak 5, a one-watt Apcor radio, and a fully-stocked drug box.
In October of 1989, the crew moved temporarily into the Cave Spring Volunteer Fire Department station while a new building was being completed. The new building was completed and occupied in the summer of 1990. The building was a joint effort of Cave Spring Rescue Squad and Roanoke County. This was the first building that the crew had ever moved into that was actually new. Units no longer need to be moved out of the bays to allow for meetings. The new building has a very large meeting room located above the bays.
In 1996 the old 1977 squad was replaced with a custom built four-wheel drive Squad. It is one of only two squads in the valley equipped with a 25 foot telescoping light tower to provide maximum lighting during rescue operations.
1998 marked the 40th anniversary of Cave Spring Rescue Squad providing prehospital care and rescue services. In 1999, Cave Spring, along with Back Creek, Bent Mountain, and Clearbrook Rescue Squads implemented a Float Medic program to provide increased ALS coverage to South Roanoke County. The Float Medic responds to assist a BLS ambulance or another medic if the call is of a serious nature.
Until a letter was sent to Chief Robert Monroe of Roanoke County Fire Department the Cave Spring area was covered 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with volunteer staff. Increasing call volume and the fact that most members also had full-time jobs meant that it became difficult for CSRS to cover daytime calls as an all-volunteer agency. Roanoke County now provides career staffing for the Cave Spring area from 6am to 6pm on weekdays, and CSRS covers the remainder of the time (evenings and weekends) as well as helping the county during the day when needed and available.
Every year since 1976, CSRS has held an EMT class that is open to anyone in the community above the age of 16. Each year, CSRS recruits many new members from the class as well as training individuals who volunteer for rescue squads and fire departments throughout the Roanoke Valley.
Advances in medical care have made drastic change to the way that emergency medical services are delivered. CSRS has been at the forefront of many of these changes in the Roanoke Valley. In 2005 biphasic defibrillators were purchased and installed on all ambulances, blood draw was completed on every IV established, and capnography for intubated patients was instituted. 2006 saw continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) on CSRS apparatus to better assist patients with difficulty breathing. In 2008 12-lead EKG machines to more quickly detect heart attacks and new stair chairs with load control treads to safely move patients from second or third floor apartments to the ambulance were purchased and put into service. Alternate forms of venous access were obtained in 2010 in the form of Easy-IO which allows administration of fluids and medications to those patients who have difficult to access veins. 2011 had a patient carbon monoxide detector in use to more quickly diagnosis carbon monoxide poisoning in those involved in fires or gas leak situations.
In 2008, Cave Spring Rescue Squad celebrated its 50th anniversary. Nearly 500 past and present members were invited to the anniversary reunion.
Now, in 2012, CSRS has over 60 members who last year responded to 1,228 911 calls. Members range in age from 16 years old to over 60 years old, and have been serving as CSRS members for up to 38 years. CSRS members volunteer out of a powerful desire to give something back to the community, and also enjoy the sense of community that being a member of the rescue squad provides as well as the excitement of the job.
Each CSRS member is required to receive their EMT certification within six months of joining. Members are assigned to one of six duty teams that staff the station on a rotating basis, in shifts that last 12-24 hours each. 911 calls are routed to a central Roanoke County communication center, and then CSRS members are alerted by radios and alphanumeric pagers.
The primary area that CSRS serves covers approximately 6,000 acres, including both residential and commercial areas. About 36,500 people live in the CSRS primary run area.
Over the years CSRS has provided EMS services in a variety of venues including Virginia Tech football games, pre-prom mock teen drunk driving demonstrations, airport alert disaster drills, Lexington Horse Show, Vinton Dogwood Festival, Blue Ridge Marathon, and Martinsville Speedway races. CSRS also provides a staffed ambulance at all Hidden Valley and Cave Spring High School varsity football games and at other sporting events when requested.
The majority of the funding for CSRS comes from donations from individuals in the community. The donations have made the purchase of upgraded equipment, ambulances and rapid response vehicles possible along with covering the day to day cost of medical supplies. The CSRS Auxiliary also organizes many fundraising events each year, including the semi-annual chicken barbecues.
Each December, the CSRS Auxiliary hosts a holiday party for current members, life members, and other special guests. At this holiday party, awards are given out for the Crew Member of the Year and the BLS and ALS provider of the year. Members who participated in “code saves” calls or other particularly memorable calls, or who have reached milestone years of service, are recognized. It is also at this banquet that the selection of any new life members of the rescue squad is announced.
Looking towards the future, Cave Spring Volunteer Rescue Squad aims to continue to provide excellent prehospital care to individuals in the Cave Spring area. CSRS is constantly upgrading its equipment and training standards to make sure that the Cave Spring area receives the best pre-hospital care available.