By Caleb Slinkard
The Commerce Journal
The Commerce Emergency Corps (E-Corps) has served the citizens of Commerce and Hunt County as first responders for more than four decades, dating back to their foundation in 1958. For the first time they have acquired a building in downtown Commerce to serve as a central hub for responding to emergency calls.
“We used to run calls from our own vehicles and we parked our rescue trucks at the funeral home,” Dive Team Coordinator Jack Mize said. “It’s awesome to have a place like this. We saved all of our money for several years, and we were fortunate enough to pay cash for this building. It has four bays, and it didn’t need a whole lot of work.”
The new location will allow the E-Corps, who operate under and are funded in part by the Hunt Memorial Hospital District, to be more efficient as they respond to emergency calls outside the city limits of Commerce.
“We respond to all 911 calls outside of the city limits of Commerce, whether it’s a medical call, a search and rescue or a traffic accidents,” Mize said. “We have the ‘Jaws of Life’ and are the ones that would be doing to cutting outside of the city limits.”
E-Corps also have a dive team, which was founded in the late 1980s, that works with the Hunt County Sheriff’s Department in various capacities and also performers water rescues in Hunt County lakes.
“We do all the water rescues and we also do recoveries for the Sheriff’s Department for homicide investigations,” Mize said. “We can do vehicle recoveries, weapon recoveries, and body recoveries.”
The Emergency Corps is made up of 12 local volunteers who donate their time and resources without compensation. Recently, the state of Texas and hospital districts have begun to require more extensive training for volunteer fire departments and other first responders.
“We volunteer because some needs to do it,” Mize said. “We now take ECA classes as our state minimum and have to pass a state exam offered in Dallas. The only difference between an ECA certification and an EMT certification is that ECAs can’t drive ambulances.”
Through the hospital district, Commerce E-Corps is able to provide EMC, paramedic, and public safety diving certification training to volunteers, usually thousands of dollars, at no cost.
“If a young person wanted to get into the medical field, whether as an EMT or paramedic, this would be a great way to receive the training and experience needed,” Mize said.
Part of increasing their exposure will include fund-raisers and benefits to help pay for necessary supplies and equipment. The E-Corps runs primarily on donations. They held their first fund-raiser late in March, and will be participating in a benefit concert for Hunt County emergency operations later this month. Sponsored by local volunteer fire and rescue units, the benefit will be held on April 28 at 7:30 p.m. in the Ferguson Social Sciences Auditorium. The benefit will feature music from Star De Azlan, Dion Pride (son of country singer Charley Pride), Amber Carrington, and “Texoma Blues Man” Billy Joe Howard. A guitar autographed by Taylor Swift will be raffled off at the benefit, and autographed photos of Carlos Santana will be auctioned off. Tickets are available for $10 at local volunteer first responders in advance of the concert, by credit card at www.bigstatemusic.com or by cash at the door the night of the concert.
Mize hopes to reestablish a good relationship with the Commerce City Council. Two years ago, the council decided to stop using E-Corps to run their emergency calls and began using their own ambulances and first responders.
“I want to get a better relationship with the City Council so we can run more medical calls or at least help them,” he said. “We want to take some of the burden off of the city.”