ASHEVILLE — Bill Chandler, a 14-year veteran of the Incident Management Assistance Program, is a steady presence on the interstates in the Asheville area.
Chandler estimates that he has assisted more than 20,000 drivers since IMAP began patrolling Asheville in 2004. He has a library full of stories to share from working for the N.C. Department of Transportation. Most can be found in the section he loves to share, but a few are scary.
Chandler is one of more than 100 IMAP responders who provide roadway assistance to drivers on North Carolina interstates. Typical IMAP services include securing crash scenes, emergency traffic control, changing flat tires, providing gasoline, jump-starting batteries, and providing basic immediate vehicle maintenance — all while, working within inches from passing motorists.
Chandler’s professionalism, stellar safety history and personable demeanor with each driver he assists — and they have been from all over the world — led local NCDOT engineers to nominate Chandler for the statewide Roscoe Award which is given to an IMAP team member who has made significant contributions to the IMAP program and improved safety on North Carolina roadways. The award, created in 2002, is dedicated in memory of Roscoe L. Narron, an IMAP driver who died in the line of duty in 2001.
North Carolina Secretary of Transportation Jim Trogdon presented Chandler with the award for 2017 during a biennial ceremony February in Raleigh.
“It’s an honor because I know a lot of people across the state who do the same things,” said Chandler, who grew up in Madison County. “A lot of other guys deserve it too.”
Chandler has jumped into the bed of his truck to avoid a pickup headed right at him. He’s hopped on the hood to avoid a car squeezing between orange cones and the front fender. And he’s hurdled guardrail to dodge an 18-wheeler that came within 18 inches of his heels.
The danger is a small part of his job as an IMAP Responder.
“My wife is my therapist and she knows everything I’ve done with this job,” Chandler said. “Well, not everything. I try not to scare her too much. But Linda knows it’s dangerous.”
He has assisted drivers from all 50 states. Chandler has used a picture book to help communicate with foreign visitors. He’s helped newlyweds and retirees, folks in fancy sports cars and people driving cars that barely start.
He has calmed frayed nerves, provided a shoulder to cry on, and a hand for high-fives. He’s even worked with the Secret Service to plan for presidential visits.
“I could tell you a story from every mile of interstate — good and bad,” Chandler said. “I love this job in part because you see the immediate effect of helping people. It’s a great program and we help a lot of people.”
A few years ago, a church bus from Mississippi loaded with kids and teenagers on their way to Ridgecrest Worship Center in Black Mountain blew a tire on I-40.
“The first thing you do is try to keep them safe,” Chandler said. “Then a 13-year-old came out and helped me change the tire. I still have a picture of me with all of those kids.”
In addition to the hundreds of pictures that include him and a smiling driver, the mailbox at his office constantly gets stuffed with thank you cards. The thank-you letters he has received over the years include descriptions range from “IMAP Angel,” to “Guardian Angel” to “A fine example of Southern hospitality” to “An asset to the traveling public,” and most importantly, “A life-saver.”
Division 13 Traffic Engineer Anna Henderson nominated Chandler for the Roscoe Award. She wrote in the nomination letter, “Mr. Chandler has dedicated himself to the task of providing excellent customer service by demonstrating a positive can-do attitude with a willingness to lend a helping hand to anyone in need.”
Ever humble, Chandler says it’s all part of the job.
“You can’t count the number of lives that IMAP has saved, let alone the time and property and commerce saved too,” Chandler said. “I’m so thankful that I’m in a job where I get to help people.”