VIRGINIA BEACH — The city’s Emergency Medical Services is a unique feature in that it’s 95 percent volunteer and it’s a system that “feeds itself,” said Deputy Chief Tom Green.
It’s the largest volunteer EMS agency in the nation.
Each of the department’s 10 volunteer rescue squads is their own 501(c)(3) non-profit organization who buy their ambulances, supplies, and buildings with donations and state grants.
That’s why, said Green, “it’s a huge deal” City Council appropriated $91,813 for EMS’s operating budget Tuesday night.
“It’s a whole concerted effort” to ensure the agency’s revenue surpluses are approved and allocated before the end of the fiscal year on June 30, Green sais.
“We all work together to make this happen so quickly,” he said.
Volunteer EMTs and augmenting career paramedics are trained and on the ready to respond to emergencies in the community but “you can never be too prepared for an incident like what happened on Friday,” Green said.
It was that day, May 31, that 12 people were gunned down in Building 2 of the city’s Municipal Center. Four others were injured.
Green he’s proud of this “extremely high performing prehospital system” that responded to a scene of mass casualty.
Green said volunteers were ready and answered the call to duty during the mass shooting.
“Volunteers served over 100 hours in the days following the event,” he said. “Some even stayed at their station overnight just in case.”
Volunteer squads also stage for medical coverage at large events like “Something in the Water” and the “Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series” for a fraction of the cost of privately owned ambulance services — the teams work for donations.
“In the end, the event organizers save money and the city benefits from people attending events,” he said.
Event organizers give their donation to the city’s treasurer, then the city pays the donation out to the Department of EMS.
State grants are allocated to provide more than $1,700 in training for volunteers to become Nationally Registered-EMT, at no cost to the volunteer.
Related Story: Learn to save someone — in the event you need to. Here’s how
The department also provides free CPR and “Stop the Bleed” classes to the public.
Green said the efforts of volunteers are unmatched and “super special.”
“You’re not going to find a system like this anywhere else,” said.