PORTSMOUTH, Va (WAVY) — On Wednesday, Portsmouth and Chesapeake fire departments announced an automatic aid agreement that will dispatch the closest truck, no matter which city you live in.
The agreement between the two cities’ fire departments is building on the program that now includes all Southside cities.
“This automatic aid is definitely a true win for both communities,” said Portsmouth Fire Chief Nestor Mangubat during a news conference Wednesday morning.
Automatic aid, officials said, increases the chances to save lives and property.
“Takes minutes off, and as you know with any emergency, cardiac arrest, fires, it grows exponentially as the minutes go on,” Chesapeake Fire Chief Ed Elliott told WAVY.
Elliott is excited because as of Wednesday, he said when you look at a map of Hampton Roads, there are no more city boundary lines — at least as far as fire dispatch is concerned.
Portsmouth is the last of the south side cities to join the automatic aid agreement, which began in 2015.
“I’m just glad to see the final link is [complete for] Southside Hampton Roads initiative that started over six years ago. And so we can officially say today that Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Suffolk and Portsmouth are all linked together for the first time with an automatic aid system,” Elliott said.
All cities have worked together in the past to provide mutual aid when called on.
Portsmouth and Chesapeake have also worked together already for years providing mutual aid to specific neighborhoods and areas including Cavalier Industrial Park, Camelot, Brentwood, Cradock, Cavalier Manor, Hodges Manor, Bowers Hill, Chesapeake Square and High Street West.
Now, through technology, the process is automatic and seamless.
Firefighters from Portsmouth and Chesapeake have been preparing for this for the past year. The departments have met at the Virginia Beach Fire Training Center to hone communication and fireground tactics in preparation for the mutual aid agreement.
It might even help homeowners save on insurance, according to Mangubat.
“Having an extra component to the fire side of response actually improves the status of our ISO rating,” Mangubat said.
Insurance companies use the Insurance Services Organization (ISO) rating to help calculate hazard rates. The rating evaluates how well protected a community is by the local fire department.
Both cities’ mayors hope this is only the beginning of more regional partnerships that will unite Hampton Roads making it a safer and more prosperous place to live.