The Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad (CARS) provides primary rescue and emergency medical transport service to the City of Charlottesville, the University of Virginia and some of Albemarle County.

CARS is a volunteer rescue squad with approximately 200 active members. We also have career firefighter/paramedics from Albemarle County Fire & Rescue that supplement our staffing on weekdays. The organization is headed operationally by L. Dayton Haugh, who has served as Chief for the past 16 years. Administratively, the department is run by President Larry Claytor. We are a member of the Virginia Association of Volunteer Rescue Squads assigned to District I. In 2008, we ran over 12,000 calls and Firehouse Magazine ranked us as the busiest volunteer rescue squad in the country.

CARS operates eight advanced life ambulances (medic units), three advanced life support quick response cars (zone cars), two heavy rescue trucks (squads), a water rescue truck with two boats, a technical rescue truck, a collapse rescue trailer, a command car, a mass causality incident truck and a special events bicycle response team with support trailer. All current apparatus is owned by the department and was purchased primarily with funds raised through donations from our community.

CARS has a shift supervisor on duty who is known as the Duty Officer. The Duty Officer is immediately available to actively manage the operational and administrative issues of the agency while insuring that Emergency Medical Services are provided to the community in the most effective manner. Specially selected personnel take turns for 12 hour shifts to ensure that operating procedures and guidelines are being followed consistently. They manage the department's tactical resources on a minute-to-minute basis, and provide Incident Management System services at major incidents. These commanders, while on duty, maintain the rank of Deputy Chief and carry the delegated authority of the Chief. They are authorized to modify incident assignments, execute policy, conduct investigations, and initiate corrective actions.

The Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad has over 115 personnel trained in ALS and over 100 certified at the EMT-B level. ALS certification includes over 600 hours of classroom training and months of practical rotations in the hospital, along with a minimum of 40 hours of continuing education annually. ALS certified personnel can initiate complex medical and airway procedures for critically injured trauma and medical emergency patients. EMT-B providers receive 121 hours of training and are taught basic intercessory procedures to react to most any emergency situation. These technicians are also able to assist patients with administering their own medications.

We are dispatched on emergency calls by the Emergency Communications Center (ECC). Assignment of apparatus to emergency calls is predetermined based on response time and distance. Most members carry department issued pagers which alert them to major emergency calls and assist in bringing in additional staffing during peak call loads.



How do I access the EMS system?

Dial 9-1-1 to report any emergency When the call is answered you asked several questions. The first question is "what is the emergency?" At the same time emergency equipment is being dispatched, you will be asked additional questions about the situation. When calling 9-1-1 please do the following:

What do I do after the phone call?

Remain calm. Call-takers will provide information and instructions to assist you in reacting to the emergency and providing aid to the patient. Remember to not move an injured person unless their life is in immediate danger. Equally important, don't become a victim yourself. Offer only the level of aid that you are comfortable with providing. Finally, if your request for assistance is for an illness, gather all medications the patient is taking, along with a current medical history, to pass on to the emergency medical personnel when they arrive.

Is there anything I can do to make finding my house easier?

Yes. First, does your house number display measure up to these standards?

Second, at night have someone blink the house lights when they see our emergency lights or have someone at the end of your driveway to flag us down.

What happens at the emergency scene?

Personnel will arrive usually within six minutes. When paramedics arrive, their first action is to assess the condition of the patient and determine the need for immediate actions. They may contact the local emergency department by radio or telephone to consult with a physician. Many situations can best be corrected by life-sustaining therapy that is most successful when started at the emergency scene. Please allow the emergency medical crews time to complete these actions for the benefit of the patient. As the patient's condition is stabilized, arrangements will be made for transport. It is our goal to transport the patient to the most appropriate hospital facility.

Why does a fire truck show up?

Sometimes a fire engine will arrive first because it is the closest emergency equipment to the scene. While waiting for the ALS unit to get to the scene, these EMT's will render whatever aid is necessary. Along with basic medical equipment, some fire engines are equipped with automatic defibrillators, a device used to monitor the heart and deliver an electrical charge to correct a life-threatening heart rhythm. Teamwork is an essential part of emergency operations, and all of the personnel on the emergency scene are trained to function as a lifesaving team.

Why do several pieces of rescue apparatus respond to small incidents?

Rescue units are dispatched in accordance to the information received by 9-1-1 operators. We think worst in terms of case when we respond to citizens in need of assistance. EMT's and paramedics are dispatched to deal with an incident that can turn from bad to worse. They are well trained and professional.

What should I do when there is an emergency vehicle behind me displaying its lights?

Virginia law requires that the driver of every vehicle shall immediately move as close as possible and parallel to the nearest edge of the road, clear of any intersection, and stop whenever an emergency vehicle with warning lights and siren operating is approaching. The driver shall remained stopped until the emergency vehicle has passed and no other emergency equipment is in sight.

Frequently, drivers do not check rear view mirrors often enough, and it is difficult to hear an approaching siren with windows up and the radio turned on. It's important to check your side and rear view mirrors every 10 seconds and always be alert to the possible presence of emergency vehicles around you.

Remember, if you were in need of emergency help you wouldn't want thoughtless drivers delaying those enroute to help you!

Can I go along to the hospital?

You may ride along to the hospital; however, you will be asked to ride in the front with the driver. When possible you may want to drive your own vehicle to the hospital, because we are not able to give you a ride back to your home. When driving to the hospital yourself, you must obey all state laws and stay at least 500 feet behind the ambulance. Excessive speed and dangerous maneuvers will endanger others as well as you.

Will I receive a bill?

No. Emergency services rendered by the Charlottesville-Albemarle Rescue Squad are provided to you without charge. The services represent your donations at work.

Does CARS install child seats?

Cars seat installations are handled by the Albemarle County Department of Fire Rescue. Click here to visit their web site.


  • Have a working smoke alarm and check it annually.
  • Always wear your seat belt.
  • Wear a helmet when you ride a bike, skateboard or rollerblade.
  • When crossing the street, look left, look right and look again both ways.
  • Yield to emergency vehicles, go to the nearest shoulder.
  • Secure children in a properly installed safety seat.
  • Shut off your vehicle when refueling.
  • When walking or jogging, carry plenty of water and tell a friend where you are going.
  • Learn CPR.
  • Learn the safty laws in our community.
  • Have important medical information handy.


    Before our squad was founded in 1960, the only way a local citizen could get to a hospital was to call friends or a local funeral home, who transported you to the hospital in a hearse (they had no first-aid training either!). The fire dept. had a ambulance, but they only transported smoke inhalation victims.

    In 1958, a building under demolition near Court Square collapsed suddenly, trapping a passer-by in the rubble. Joel Cochran and Ted Patterson, two citizens with first-aid training, rescued the man and decided that a local rescue squad was needed. They, along with John Pannel and Charlie Rausch started collecting equipment and started teaching first-aid classes in order to start up a squad.

    On November 15th, 1960, our squad started providing first-aid services to the citizens of Charlottesville and Albemarle County. We had 42 members, 40 men and 2 women. Our fund drive goal that year was $20,000 and we had 2 carry-all van ambulances as our fleet, along with 3 station wagons owned by squad members as the reserve fleet. The vans were sent to a local body shop where the roofs were reinforced to support two extra stretchers from the roof, rear bumper steps installed and other work done according to CARS spefications. The first call run was on November 17th, a pedestrian hit by a car. The running schedule was 2 - 3 person teams at home, dispatched by Joel Cochran's secretary. The first month of operations saw us answer 260 calls, the first year 853 calls. Initial training of prospective members included a 26-hour Red Cross basic & advanced first aid course followed by a "doctor's course" where Dr. David Strider advanced classes in obstetrics, burns, chest and abdominal injuries, general surgery and other fields over an 8-week period.

    In 1962, two school buses filled with high school students from Saltville collided sending one down a 30 foot embankment at Rt 250 and Barracks Road resulting in 38 injuries. A trench collapse occured on Brandywine Drive where two people were injured. A major fire in a 14th St NW rooming house claimed 7 lives. CARS added a "crash truck" and scuba diving unit to the services we provided. CARS won 5 first place trophies at the VAVRS State Convention.

    In 1963, our squad building was built by R.E. Lee for $92,340. It would cost over $1 million to replace it today. The land the present building sits on was donated by the City for the cost of $1 per year, and belongs to us as long as we use it. The site was an old swamp. Also, due to the increasing number of calls received, day dispatch is started up using a local telephone answering service as our dispatch center.

    In 1965 the building had been paid for by donations much to the delight of Joel, who had personally guaranteed the original building loan.

    In 1970, CARS was the first rescue squad in the state to require its members to be certified in CPR. That year saw the UVA Er see 20,000 patients.

    In 1971, CARS was the first squad in the state to offer ALS service. One of our first patients was President Lyndon Johnson who suffered a MI while he was visiting his daughter and son-in-law Chuck Robb here at UVA.

    In 1973, CARS started "stand alone" ALS coverage by utilizing a telemetry radio to call the UVA CCU for ALS orders and advise. The very first "Bio-phone" telemetry radio was sold to the TV show "Emergency", the next unit off the assembly line was sold to CARS.

    In 1973, we had 60 members and answered 3,200 call for service. Women were required to leave the building after 8 PM for fear that the public might think a scandal was afoot.

    In 1974, Dr. Richard Crampton, a professor of medicine at UVA, published an article that Charlottesville had a 26% drop in pre-hospital coronary death rates, and a 62% decline in ambulance coronary death rates 3 years after CARS started up it's ALS program. The percentages remain as records to this day.

    In 1975, Thacker Construction built an addition to our building which has 3 bays, 2 bedrooms and a large meeting room. The addition cost $153,924.

    In 1976, CARS becomes the first squad in the state to require all it's member to be trained as EMT's.

    In 1977, Newsweek Magazine named CARS one of the top 4 rescue squads in the country. (The other 3 were Seattle Fire Dept., the Chicago Fire Dept., and the Los Angeles County Fire Dept. where the then popular TV show "Emergency" was filmed). Our fund drive that year was $125,000 and we responded to 4,800 requests for service. That year, CARS taught nearly 3,000 citizens how to perform CPR.

    In 1978, the passenger train Southern Crescent derailed in Nelson County causing 6 deaths, 40 injuries and brought more than 15 rescue squads from the region. In September, Western Albemarle Rescue squad starts up after a bitter battle with CARS. CARS ran a full page newspaper advertisement lambasting the Crozet-based squad saying that they "wanted to designate parts of the county where CARS would serve, they (WARS) want to take us (CARS) away from you". It took years before the two organizations would forget the past and start working together.

    Until 1981, defibrillator manufacturers would not market a new device until it was sent to CARS for testing and field evaluation. (If we couldn't break it, it was deemed ready to be sold).

    In 1982, our Berkmar substation opened as the result of the pending annexation suit between the City and the County. The cost of the building was $150,000. The land was donated by the County.

    In 1983 we stopped the practice of sending 12-lead ECG's to UVA CCU for interpretation and patient care instructions. In the 90's, many systems are discovering that to be state-of-the-art in coronary care, you must spend a ton of money on equipment that allows this practice. For most of the late 70's and early 80's we did this, only to find that it did not make any difference in patient morbidity or mortality so we stopped the practice. While the equipment we used then was primitive by today's standard, we've "been there, done that".

    In 1985, CARS formed an all-female EMT Competition team that is today still the only such team in the state. In 1987, they took 2nd place and in 1992, they took 3rd place, (out of 80 some teams!).

    In 1986, 1988 & 1995 CARS won 1st place in the state in the VAVRS ALS competition.

    In 1989, CARS was named the busiest volunteer rescue squad in the country by Firehouse Magazine.

    In 1989, CARS was named EMS Agency of the Year by the Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services. That year saw us answer 7,560 requests for service.

    In 1991, CARS was featured on the national TV show "Rescue 911". CARS rescued a victim who fell 80' off a cliff and lived to tell the story.

    In 1992, a 54-vehicle accident on fog-shrouded Afton Mountain resulted in 2 deaths and 42 injured and tested the mettle of regional rescue squads. During their response to the scene, 2 Nelson County ambulances collided resulting in one EMT being pinned in his vehicle.

    In 1993, CARS formed the first all-volunteer technical rescue team in the country. The team has gone on to perform several difficult rescues in this community and was featured in a national trade magazine in the spring.

    In 1994, CARS won 1st place in the State VAVRS Rescue competition. That year saw our call volume climb to over 10,000 requests for service.

    In 1995, CARS won 1st place in the State VAVRS ALS & Water Rescue competitions. We also were one of the first rescue squads in the country to start up their own web site on the Internet.

    In 1997, CARS won 1st place in the State VAVRS ALS, Cot Race & Water Rescue competitions.

    In 1998, CARS sent two members (John Burruss and Dayton Haugh) to Germany for one week to observe how paramedics in that country provide emergency services. That year, we also won 1st place in the State VAVRS Water Rescue competition. We also had a 65-vehicle accident on fog-shrouded Afton Mountain that resulted in 40 injured and was followed 3 weeks later by a 18-vehicle accident.

    In 2000, CARS started painting the ambulances in a new color scheme called "German Red". This new color scheme is actually a very bright flourscent orange and is designed to catch other driver's eyes. We are the 2nd departemnt in the country to use this new color. Also, CARS started up the area's first bicycle medic team and was featured on the cover of The Viginia Fire News Magazine.

    In 2002, the NAEMSP awarded CARS the Rural EMS System of the Year at their annual convention. This year we also started allowing 4 UVA student-members to live in our Berkmar sub-station in exchange for manning an ambulance there.

    In 2004, CARS was once again named the busiest all-volunteer unit in the nation by Firehouse magazine. We upgraded our defibrillators to the new Phillips MRx 12-lead cardiac monito/defibrillators. Chsen by the manufacturer as the first rescue squad in the U.S. to use this device, CARS is able to provide the best possible care to patients who are experiencing cardiac problems or a heart attack. CARS won 1st place in the State VAVRS ALS and Rescue competitions. We also won Web Site of the Year Award.

    In 2005, CARS joinned with Albemarle County Department of Fire Rescue to provide a unit for precepting their personnel. This allows for an additional medic unit to be staffed daily from Monday to Thursday.

    In 2007, a study commissioned by the Mayor of Charlottesville found that CARS met and exceeded the NFPA recommendation for ALS response time. (9 minutes on scene from time of dispatch 90% of the time).

    In 2008, CARS has become the first emergency medical services (EMS) agency in Central Virginia and one of the first in the mid-Atlantic region to offer the most effective drug available to counter the effects of cyanide poisoning.

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