Erasing the lines for safety

Published 6:06 pm Friday, September 4, 2020

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When it comes to saving lives and property, nothing could be less important than the exact boundary lines between cities and on which side of the boundary that life or property that’s in danger is located.

That’s why Suffolk and Chesapeake have entered into an “automatic aid” agreement, which will allow the Chesapeake and Suffolk fire departments to respond to calls in certain predetermined areas along the border between the two cities based on who is available without worrying about whether the department and the city where the incident is located match.

The two departments have long had a mutual aid agreement, as many neighboring localities do. However, through that agreement, help had to be requested, and it then took minutes to dispatch units to provide the help. The new automatic aid agreement, which has already been put to use more than a dozen times in about a month, will eliminate the seams between the two cities and their departments for purposes of saving lives and property in danger as a result of fire, trauma such as car crashes, and other incidents. Help will be dispatched automatically, and people who are experiencing what’s sure to be one of the worst moments of their lives won’t have to wait even longer for help.

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Firefighters, emergency communicators and fire administrators have undergone training, shared policies and came up with new practices and made all sorts of other behind-the-scenes movements to make this process work. Those who will benefit include residents, businesses owners and travelers in areas such as Pughsville, Harbour View, College Drive, Burbage Lakes, up to the Godwin Bridge in Suffolk, and then in Chesapeake in the Western Branch area.

Recent years have seen Suffolk and Chesapeake collaborating on any number of fronts, including road projects, economic development and now public safety. Our kudos go to city leaders on these projects, especially fire chiefs Michael Barakey of Suffolk and Ed Elliott of Chesapeake, who worked on this latest iteration.