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Rehab 23 becomes refuge for first responders

By Laurie Everett leveret@mtjulietnews.com • Dec 17, 2015 at 6:01 PM

Their mission is to support first responders from every agency in Wilson County.

Since Rehab 23 started operating mid-summer 2013, the program's mobile unit and volunteers have been to dozens of emergency scenes across the county to provide first responders with such things as water, cool towels, nourishment and much more. Their latest emergency scene was the bombing in Lebanon where they set up three days in a row.  

"Rehab 23 is a mobile unit stocked with equipment and supplies to serve as a public safety refuge for first responders who are on the scene of an emergency for multiple hours," said Lin Linn Yeager, one of the program's nine board members. "In addition, it serves as the place Wilson Emergency Management Agency staff can provide necessary medical checks for first responders at the scene."

He said the unit provides an alternative location for firefighters and other first responders who must have their vitals taken when fighting a fire for more than the usual time.

"Firefighters are required to have their vital statistics monitored after they've gone through a tank or two of air" said Yeager. "If that is done in the accompanying ambulance it will contaminate the vehicle. We can free up the ambulance on the scene with the Rehab unit."

Primary support provided for Rehab 23 are 28 (to date) trained volunteers who are on call in different shifts 24/7. The unit is housed at the new Fire Department of Mt. Juliet on Belinda Parkway. It is dispatched via a "call out" by authorized staff members within all Wilson County agencies such as FDMJ, WEMA, the Mt. Juliet and Lebanon police departments and the Sheriff's Office. Rehab 23 is an independent program with a board and its volunteers are a cross-section of citizens who feel the value of contributing their time to the cause.

Rehab 23’s inception

Yeager said Rehab 23 is one of only three such units in the middle Tennessee area. The other places are Davidson and Rutherford counties.  Scott Lorden is the president of Wilson County Professional Firefighter's Association/Local 238 and a WEMA firefighter. He was the impetus for the program. He responded to a house fire in late 2012 and realized there needed to be some support to the professionals fighting a serious fire and at the scene for a long time. 

The mobile unit was retrofitted for its intended purpose and made available to the newly formed Wilson County Emergency Services Rehab Association, said Lorden.  Rehab 23 is now on long-term lease to WCESRA for $1 a year. The WCPFFA bought the mobile unit with funds generated via donations to the various events hosted by WCPFFA the last couple years.

“It was purchased with community money," said Lorden. "Our job is to take care of the citizens of this county, and the citizens ended up taking care of us in this need with donated funds."

Lorden & James Hendricks, another WEMA staff member, personally drove the unit from where it was purchased in Rhode Island to Wilson County. Yeager explained the unit has air conditioning and heating units that are operated via the diesel engine.

"It can remain stationary and functional for many hours at a time," said Yeager. "This allows first responders to seek refuge from the elements during all types of inclement weather."

Rehab 23 has been busy

Yeager said this came in handy during a drowning operation July 16 - 18, 2013 in Lebanon. The volunteers and the unit provided support to multi-county agencies. For three days the unit was located at Hunters Point boat ramp off Hwy. 231 North in Lebanon.

"We provided over 30 people with water and nutrition throughout the day," said Yeager.  "The unit also provided a cool refuge for those who were overcome by the heat. We provided continuous support for the entire command unit and volunteers not out in the boats."

This was one of dozens of times Rehab 23 has been dispatched, at times with up to seven volunteers. It also stores tents, benches and chairs. It’s stocked with coffee, water, other beverages and food. It has an inverter that converts DC to AC, thus allowing 110-volt devices to operate appliances for hot beverages and soups.

Rehab 23 was at the scene of at least three major emergencies in July. In addition to the drowning scene, the unit responded to support WEMA at a house fire off  Highway 109 at 9 p.m. It was pouring rain and first responders were on the scene for over five hours. Volunteers provided them with water and food during the long event.  In August the unit provided support to the MJPD SWAT team. It was a long standoff and officers needed fluids and nutrition.

In September Rehab 23 supported the FDMJ while they trained at the Lebanon Fire Training Center. For three days the unit supplied the firefighters with lunch, fluids and Gatorade.

First responders grateful for Rehab 23

"The unit is a wonderful tool to have," said FDMJ Assistant Chief Jamie Luffman, who has personally received such things as coffee and licorice strips during an operation. "Back in the day we had to send someone from the scene for water and such. Now this truck comes and supplies us nourishment. I think it makes for a wonderful piece of the product we offer the citizens."

Rehab 23 took part in the Del Webb Lake Providence Parking Lot Sale and received $405 in donations and much response from would-be volunteers to help man the unit.  The unit has also taken part in Night Out Against Crime to introduce the unit to the community. Since December, Rehab 23 has responded to numerous emergency scenes and fires. It also has participated in local Christmas parades.

Yeager and Lorden said first responders express gratitude for the attention during severe emergencies.

"They absolutely can't thank us enough," said Yeager. "A wet towel after being in a fire, or a cold bottle of water or Gatorade goes a long way. It brings a smile to their face."

FDMJ Firefighter Jason Ross couldn't agree more.

"I’ve had a couple of experiences already with the unit," said Ross. "The first time was when I was hired and trained and we were given water, Gatorade and snacks."

Another time was at the recent house fire in Willoughby Station.

"We don't necessarily get a break to get nourishment while at a scene,” said Ross. “Sometimes it’s a hungry life for a firemen and we miss meals.  It's great that a group of people from the community come together to bring us hot coffee and food. It's really heartwarming."

FDMJ Volunteer Cpt. Shawn Donovan's had first-hand experience with Rehab 23.

"It's an excellent asset for all the emergency agencies in Wilson County," said Donovan. "They are a very dedicated group of volunteers who have shown a high level of dedication and pride to provide a very much needed service to emergency responders. We are very fortunate to have them as members of the emergency services family, not only in Mt. Juliet, but the entire county."

Chik fil A is a large sponsor of the unit, but Rehab officials said they hope to raise about $24,000 to keep the program going and eventually expand. They hope to have a second Rehab unit in the eastern end of the county in the near future.

They've developed multiple levels of sponsorship with the highest level of sponsorship to gain increased recognition when the unit is on display or at the scene of an incident.  Yeager said "Friends of Rehab 23" is being formed as well. There are annual dues and in return Friends will get regular, detailed reports of the unit’s responses and other relevant news. They are still recruiting volunteers who must be at least 21 years old, a resident of Tennessee and a U.S. Citizen. They will be vetted and interviewed. If "hired" they will be trained by experts.

"Rehab 23 is very much appreciated and a wonderful asset to first responders," said MJPD Chief James Hambrick. "I was able to see first hand what their mission is. Some nights and days are long out there and it's nice to be rehydrated. It's a worthy mission."

Donations can be sent to: Rehab 23, P.O. Box 23, Gladeville, Tenn.  37071. You can follow all the activities of Rehab 23 on Facebook at WilsoncountyESRA.

For more information or to receive a Responder/Member application contact Linn Yeager at rehab23marketing@gmail.com or 615-974-7501.

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