Virginia Beach EMS chief explains changes to the job after 9/11 attacks

VIRGINIA BEACH Va. (WAVY) – For anyone who lived through the day, September 11, 2001 changed the world.

The terrorist attacks especially changed the world for first responders – the police, firefighters and emergency medical technicians who are the first to put themselves in harm’s way, even after that horrible day.

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Like most people, Virginia Beach EMS Chief Ed Brazle remembers the day well. Unlike most people, he went immediately after the attacks to the still-burning Pentagon to provide relief for his Northern Virginia counterparts.

“Our first reaction was – how do we defend Virginia Beach?” he said. “Then our next reaction was, how do we help outside of Virginia Beach?”

Two ambulances and a rescue truck went to northern Virginia as part of a state team for backup. They weren’t used, but Brazle provided care for other first responders when they were able to take breaks.

In between, he watched as firefighters continued their work, and as bodies were carried from the wreckage.

“What was really inspiring to me on September 12 was, as the building was still burning, people in uniform, military folks, briefcase and coffee, just coming to work, going into that building, and making it happen, and continuing that job and defending this country,” he said.

Today, because of the lessons learned during 9/11 and other attacks since, Brazle believes the public is safer.

Part of it has to do with language. Prior to September 11, any given department had its own coded way of communicating across the radio. Now, that’s gone, and all departments speak standardized plain language. They also operate as part of FEMA’s National Incident Management System.

“It’s a standardized way that we manage and operate on an incident scene,” Brazle said. “So all of our folks are trained, whether career or volunteer, to the same standard. We train a lot of our civilian responders from public works and public utilities, so that helps in hurricanes, tornadoes and natural disasters, not just a terror attack.”

Just as Brazle didn’t hesitate to head toward potential danger after the 9/11 attacks, he said his crews wouldn’t hesitate today – and they’re better prepared than ever before.

“As we’ve done more and more training, counter-terrorism training and active shooter training, our folks are right there in front, wanting to be a part.”