Dare County hosts ribbon cutting ceremony & open house to celebrate new EMS Station 7 / Dare MedFlight Hangar – OBX Today

Dare County hosts ribbon cutting ceremony & open house to celebrate new EMS Station 7 / Dare MedFlight Hangar - OBX Today

Dare County hosted a ribbon cutting ceremony and open house event to celebrate the recent completion and official opening of the new Dare County EMS Station 7 / MedFlight Hangar on Roanoke Island beginning at 2 p.m. on Monday, June 3, 2024. The new 14,320-square-foot facility, which is located at 1078 Driftwood Drive in Manteo, is part of a multiphase project to improve and modernize outdated Dare County EMS facilities throughout the county in order to better serve the residents and visitors of our community.

The ribbon cutting ceremony kicked off inside the bay of the Dare MedFlight hangar with remarks made by Dare County EMS Director Chief Jennie Collins, who welcomed the more than 150 event attendees, which included numerous current and former Dare County EMS staff members, as well as several Dare County officials and many members of the public.

“We are honored and thrilled to have you here today to celebrate this momentous milestone with us. It is very exciting to see this project come to fruition,” said Collins, who continued by recognizing the Dare County EMS staff members that are currently assigned to work in the new station, which includes five pilots, one captain, two full-time mechanics and 12 flight paramedics.
Image of Chief Collins speaking to the crowd.

As she continued her remarks, Collins provided a look back at the two outdated facilities that were previously utilized by Dare MedFlight for decades: a 36-year-old helicopter hangar located at one site, as well as a completely separate structure located a short distance down the street that is 54 years old and has served as the crew quarters for numerous years. In addition to noting that both of these structures had to be modified multiple times over the years to accommodate the changing needs of MedFlight staff members and the helicopter itself, Collins also illustrated the importance of constructing a new facility that could house both the helicopter hangar and the crew quarters at the same location.

“We’ve made those spaces work—and we were grateful for them—but they’re just simply not adequate to be able to support the needs our diverse workforce has right now,” she said. “Not locating everything together also impacts the crew’s ability to respond rapidly and actually lengthens our response time. I’m often asked, ‘Does what EMS do really make a difference with somebody’s life?’ I will empathically tell you that yes, it does. In cases of truly life-threatening conditions, precious minutes can make a tremendous difference in the outcome of somebody.”

Following Collins’ opening remarks, Dare County EMS Chaplain Cherri Wheeler conducted a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance before turning the ceremony over to Dare County Board of Commissioners Chairman Bob Woodard, who spoke about the county’s unwavering commitment to public safety and efforts to improve inadequate and outdated Dare County EMS facilities in order to better serve those in need of medical assistance.

Image of Chairman Woodard speaking to the crowd.

“This state-of-the-art facility we celebrate today represents the commitment of this board to our residents and Dare County,” said Woodard. “This board has made it their priority to provide the funding to have the best emergency medical system in the entire state of North Carolina, as well as anywhere in this country. This commitment has produced what many believe is one of the best EMS systems in our entire nation. Our EMTs and paramedics are the best and the brightest. Whether they are in the ambulance or on the helicopter, your family’s health is in good hands with Dare County EMS.”

Woodard went on to highlight how rare it is for a county’s EMS department to have the ability provide aeromedical transport services, and he also emphasized what an essential role Dare MedFlight plays in providing those who are living or vacationing in a rural and remote community such as Dare County with access to critical care during life-threatening emergencies.

“Some of you may not realize that, for nearly 50 years, Dare County has had one of the few and only county-owned aeromedical operations in the entire nation, and let me tell you why that’s important,” he said. “While we live in a beautiful area and we have a community hospital here in Nags Head, we are remote from specialty centers, such as trauma, stroke, cardiac, pediatric or other medical centers that provide intensive medical care. When a time-sensitive medical need occurs, [with Dare MedFlight] we’re saving lives.”

Woodard continued, “Precious time to get your loved ones to a specialty hospital makes a difference in the successful outcome of your medical emergency. It’s comforting to know that, right here in Dare County, a highly trained helicopter team is standing by to serve at a moment’s notice. I don’t know about you, but I sleep easier at night knowing that we have EMS and MedFlight here in Dare County.”

At the conclusion of Woodard’s remarks, he invited a special guest to the podium: Tony Duvall, son of Dare MedFlight pilot C.C. Duvall who, along with emergency medical technician Stephenie Willoughby, made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty in 1989 when their helicopter crashed upon its return to Dare County after successfully completing a mission to transport a young patient to a facility in Norfolk, Virginia.

Image of Tony Duvall speaking to the crowd.

As he took to the podium, Duvall shared many fond memories of his father and noted that he and Willoughby—who are forever honored at the new facility with an interior plaque as well as a monument and flower garden located near the front entrance—would be “tickled”—by the new and improved station constructed for Dare MedFlight and its crew members.

“It’s a really nice facility. The people that are here to stay in it and work in it deserve every bit of it and more,” he said before expressing how far Dare County EMS’ facilities and equipment have come over the years. “It’s come a long, long way, and it’s still steadily progressing forward. Big thank you to the [Dare County Board of Commissioners] for having the foresight, and for Chief Collins and all her staff for putting forth the effort to keep it moving forward.”

As he concluded his remarks, Duvall also emphasized the undeniable importance of Dare MedFlight to everyone in the Dare County community: “It’s a lifeblood,” he said. “When you’re out here on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean … there are a lot of facilities that are not available to us—and the helicopter makes all the difference in the world.”

Following Duvall’s remarks, Dare County EMS Chaplain Cherri Wheeler provided a blessing and closing prayer for the new facility and its crew members. Officials from Dare County—as well as representatives of Barnhill Contracting Company and Oakley Collier Architects, who were instrumental in bringing the project to fruition—then gathered at the front of the hangar and ceremoniously cut a blue ribbon to mark the official opening of EMS Station 7.

Image of the MedFlight staff standing in front of the helicopter.

During the open house that followed the ribbon cutting ceremony, attendees were invited to take guided tours of the new facility—including the crew quarters, kitchen and workspaces—and to join several Dare County EMS staff members who were onsite throughout the event to provide safety equipment overviews and night vision goggle demonstrations, as well as to perform free blood pressure checks, hands-only CPR training and Stop the Bleed training at various locations within the new station.

Image of public officials and key stakeholders cutting the ribbon in front of the MedFlight hangar.

Image of attendees receiving tours of the Dare MedFlight helicopter.

For more information about the series of improvements and renovations that are currently underway during Dare County’s EMS facilities modernization project—as well as updates about projects that will take place as future phases get underway—please visit www.DareNC.gov/EMSProjects.