Led Largest Volunteer-Based Rescue System in the Nation
He started as a volunteer with the Ocean Parks Rescue Squad in 1967, and went on to build the most innovative and agile Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in the country. Now, after 49 years with the agency, Chief Bruce W. Edwards will retire effective March 1.
“I’ve known Bruce since 1977 when we were volunteers with the Rescue Squad,” said Mayor William D. Sessoms, Jr. “I have the utmost respect for the wonderful professional he is and more than anything, I am so appreciative of what he’s done to make sure EMS stays a volunteer system.”
When Chief Edwards was 18, his father had a heart attack. “My interest in cardiac care came in part because of what my father experienced,” said Edwards. “Back then, no one really knew what to do. When I became the executive director of the Emergency Coronary Care Program for the rescue squads in February 1973 and then coordinator of EMS in 1975, I felt this was a key area we could positively impact, and I couldn’t be more proud of the progress we have made.” Last year, EMS achieved a 48% survival rate for patients it treated for cardiac arrest in the field. The national average is around 30%.
In 1984, Chief Edwards was named Director of Emergency Medical Services. “We ran around 8,000 calls for service each year. Now, we run around 44,000. And we do it with 1100 volunteers.” EMS relied almost exclusively on volunteers until 2004 when it hired some career employees to augment the strong volunteer ranks.
“There is no question that Chief Edwards has served with distinction,” City Manager Dave Hansen said. “His contributions are so well known, the Tidewater Regional Emergency Medical Services Council (TEMS), renamed one of its annual awards ‘The Bruce W. Edwards Outstanding EMS Administrator’s Award.’ This community will benefit from his work for years to come.”
His work in Virginia Beach came to the attention of people around the state. Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine appointed Chief Edwards to the State Emergency Medical Services Advisory Board in 2006 and to the Virginia State Board of Health in 2009. After Chief Edwards became chair of that board in 2011, he guided the board through some of the most difficult times in its history. Chief Edwards has the most tenure of any CPR (Cardiac Pulmonary Resuscitation) instructor, paramedic and administrator in the Commonwealth of Virginia. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Education and a Master of Public Administration from Old Dominion University.
The city manager has named Senior Division Chief Ed Brazle as interim chief of EMS.