VIRGINIA BEACH – With a population of about 452,000, it’s not hard to believe that Emergency Medical Services respond to more than 44,000 calls every year.
What most residents don’t know, according to EMS Department Chief Ed Brazle, is that the ten teams who respond to each of those calls are made up of more than 1,000 volunteers.
To celebrate the volunteers’ efforts and allow the public to learn about their programs, Mayor Will Sessoms announced on Tuesday that on Sunday, May 7, the city will thank those volunteers for their service at Mount Trashmore with “Rock the Squads!”
According to Sessoms, the volunteers and their families will meet at noon for a lunch and group photo and video at the event, which is the first of its kind.
At 2 p.m., residents are invited to join in on the fun, where they can check out ambulances used by the teams, EMS demonstrations, get an up close peek at Sentara’s Nightingale rescue helicopter and enjoy free performances by The Deloreans and The School of Rock.
The volunteers, Sessoms said, are just part of what makes Virginia Beach one of the best cities to live in.
“Having so many volunteers serve 24-7, every day,” Sessoms said at the event’s announcement at Mount Trashmore, “they’re professionals, they’re well trained, and guess what? When they go on a call, they’re there because they want to be there. They’re there because they’re volunteers.”
Ashley Martin, a spokesperson for the event, said that the volunteers save taxpayers about $24 million each year. Brazle, who joined the EMS as a volunteer more than 25 years ago, said they’re able to do that because each squad buys its own equipment, including vehicles, uniforms and supplies.
Community donations help to support the squads, but taxes only provide gas for the trucks and some training programs.
There’s something else that residents don’t have to pay for, Brazle said, and it’s the only city in the region that offers the free service.
“Because of the donations and the volunteer labor, we don’t charge to take someone to the hospital,” Brazle said.
On average, each volunteer works about 48 hours each month in a variety of administrative and special operations shifts – a commitment Brazle said is equal to having a part-time job.
Aaron Stauffenberg, 21, began volunteering with the Ocean Park squad about two years ago. When he’s not volunteering, he works as a 911 dispatcher. He said he volunteers his time because he’s always wanted a career in public service.
“I’ve been on numerous calls where we mention that we’re volunteers and citizens are always completely surprised,” Stauffenberg said.
Fellow Ocean Park volunteer William Riggs, 27, and Stauffenberg agree that the May event will give all the volunteers the opportunity to share their services and programs with the public while bonding with other volunteers.
“We’ve already got strong community support and I love being able to give back to them,” Riggs said, “but this event is a great outreach opportunity.”