The idea of forming a rescue squad in the City of Petersburg came about when an article appeared in the February, 1945, issue of The Reader’s Digest concerning the activities of the Roanoke Life Saving Crew, organized and directed by its Captain, Julian S. Wise. The Petersburg Junior Chamber of Commerce reviewed this article during a meeting on April 5, 1945. W. Roy Smith, President of the Jaycees that year, appointed a committee to visit the Roanoke operation and to report their findings at the next Jaycee meeting. In a resolution, passed unanimously, the Jaycees promised sponsorship of such an organization. The original committee, augmented by K. E Morris, invited the mayors of Petersburg, Colonial Heights, and Ettrick, along with potential first aid instructors, presidents of local civic organizations, and area medical personnel, to attend an organization meeting at the Petersburg YMCA on May 18, 1945. At this meeting, the crew was formed and the name, SOUTHSIDE VIRGINIA EMERGENCY CREW, was adopted. The first official meeting of the new crew was held on May 25, 1945. At that meeting plans for instructing all members in first aid were developed.
On June 9, 1945, the new organization elected a Board of Trustees to handle financial matters and other affairs in the interest of the crew. Business and professional men in the area were elected to the board. After initial training, the crew offered its services to Petersburg, Colonial Heights, Ettrick, Dinwiddie County, Prince George County, and Chesterfield County. The organization was financed through the generous donations of individuals, organizations, businesses, and industries. The crew acquired an unused fire station on Bank Street as its headquarters. The first pieces of equipment were a first aid truck, various types of first aid supplies, an adult iron lung, a child’s iron lung, gas masks, respirators, and oxygen tents. Feeling a need to expand, the crew established a substation in the City of Hopewell in 1947; however, about a year later, that city organized its own crew under the name of the Hopewell Emergency Crew.
By 1951 the crew had outgrown its quarters due to an increase in calls and through acquiring additional equipment. The Board of Trustees raised money for a new headquarters that was built at 415 Wythe St. Over the next fifteen years the crew grew in manpower, equipment, and emergency calls. Again, larger quarters were needed. On March 6, 1967, Board Member Frank Harris was appointed to chair a fund-raising campaign to finance the building of a new headquarters. The response of the municipalities, businesses, industries, civic organizations, professionals, and citizens was immediate and generous. On December 8, 1968, John H. VanLandingham, Jr., President of the Board, presented the keys to the new building at 425 Graham Road to T. T. Msgrove, Jr., Captain of the Crew, at a ribbon cutting ceremony. The building was built on a tract of land that is adjacent to the then new I-85.
As the times changed and as members were unable to staff ambulances during the daytime working hours, the board of trustees in July 1989, elected to employ personnel to answer EMS calls from 6am-6pm. Today SVEC serves as the primary EMS agency for the city of Petersburg answering EMS calls for service twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and three hundred and sixty-five days a year.