Room for compromise on rescue service

Published 10:57 pm Thursday, August 22, 2013

To the editor:

I write regarding the recent dispute between the Nansemond-Suffolk Volunteer Rescue Squad and Suffolk Fire and Rescue regarding the staffing and response of ambulances during emergency medical situations.

As I understand things, the fire department is attempting to staff Medic 1 on Market Street 24 hours a day and designate this unit as the “first run” unit in this district. I also believe the fire department intends to only dispatch Medic 2 on second-run calls within NSVRS’s designated district.


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I fear this could deliver a fatal blow to NSVRS.

I am biased about this organization. Though I am a lifelong resident of the City of Norfolk, I have been an active volunteer with NSVRS for approximately 20 years. The rescue squad, some of the squad’s personnel, a few individuals in Suffolk Fire and Rescue and numerous others throughout the region have helped shape and develop my professional career.

Along with my continued service to NSVRS, I also currently serve as the dean of health professions at Tidewater Community College, a logistics chief for Virginia-1 Disaster Medical Assistance Team and an EMS group supervisor with the Hampton Roads Metropolitan Medical Response Team.

Prior to my position as dean, I served as a professor of EMS at TCC for many years, and in this position I had the opportunity to teach a large majority of the advanced life support providers (both volunteer and career personnel) serving the Western Tidewater community, along with numerous providers representing the Southside and Peninsula.

Through these experiences, I have developed many professional, personal and respected friendships.

I have also learned that usually some level of compromise can be achieved if people are willing to take a step back and look at the bigger picture.

NSVRS has held a long, distinguished and valued position in the community for many decades, developing generations of productive citizens who understand the value of community service. Every community could benefit from the involvement of such a civic-minded organization.

Similarly, NSVRS has provided the training grounds for countless personnel who have opted to go into these fields as a career.

However, I also recognize the need to ensure the fire/EMS system is always intact, redundant and continually staffed. In fact the citizens of Suffolk deserve nothing less. The fire department is a perfect fit to address this issue.

That said, I arrive at what might be a reasonable compromise. If Suffolk Fire Rescue feels the need to staff Medic 1 on a 24-hour basis, seven days a week, and if Nansemond Suffolk Volunteer Rescue desires to remain an active and an integral part of the community it serves, why not designate Medic 2 as the first-run unit when staffed (generally nights and weekends)?

This process would require only a phone call to dispatch saying the apparatus is “in-service” (as is the current protocol). This option would allow the rescue squad to stay intact and continue to provide a valued service, while allowing redundancy in the system.

It could even allow the fire department to reallocate personnel and resources when the volunteers are in-service.

Thomas G. Calogrides Jr.