Good news for the squad and for Suffolk

Published 8:43 pm Monday, June 13, 2016


There was a point last year when it looked as if the historic Nansemond-Suffolk Volunteer Rescue Squad was all done.

The organization, which was Suffolk’s only rescue squad long before there was a paid Department of Fire and Rescue, began to feel pressure in 2013, when city officials adopted a policy that made the volunteer squad a second-run organization, meaning that the volunteers would be dispatched only when all city crews in the downtown area were already busy. With its call volume significantly decreased, the squad feared that it would not be able to attract skilled volunteers willing to sit around and wonder if they’d ever be called on for help.

Then, early last year, the other shoe dropped. This time, Suffolk began enforcing a policy that required volunteer rescue personnel to have an even higher level of qualifications than what is required by the state of Virginia.

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There were concerns that the combination of city actions regarding the volunteer rescue squad would spell its end.

But the volunteers did not give up, and a new push for cooperation between the city and the NSVRS — prompted largely by members of a City Council recast by the 2014 election — has resulted in a volunteer squad with a new reason for being and a fresh sense of appreciation from city officials.

Working with City Manager Patrick Roberts — also new to the job since the decisions that had jeopardized the squad’s future — and Suffolk Fire Chief Cedric Scott, the squad once again has its own first-run territory. Furthermore, the city paid the cost of the extra training for 13 volunteers who chose to stick things out in hopes that the situation would improve.

“There’s a real consensus we get a lot of value out of the services they provide,” Roberts said during an interview with the Suffolk News-Herald last week. “It was just a matter of making time to sit down and talk through each of the issues.”

People working together to come up with solutions that are better for all involved, solutions that are better for the city as a whole: That’s the kind of thing Suffolk’s government has not long been known for.

We applaud all those involved in rescuing the volunteer rescue squad. Suffolk will be better for their decision to set aside their grievances and their preconceived notions.