The Key to Stabilizing D.C.'s Rescue ServiceMaria K. Kavanagh's article "No Place To Be in an Emergency" {Close to Home, Nov. 11} unfavorably compared the emergency-response time of D.C. ambulances with that of Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad units. Kavanagh cited an agreement between the District and the BCC Rescue Squad that allows BCC paramedics to respond to calls in the city only on the condition that they await arrival of D.C. units, a dangerous policy that should be abolished. She also told about her personal experiences with the risks people who live, work or travel in the District face when they find themselves in need of prompt emergency response.

This is not the first time we have read about the problems associated with the District's inability to offer reliable emergency services. It also is not the first time that we have read about the Bethesda squad's ability to offer services that are among the best in the metropolitan area.

However, both services have proud histories and well-trained and highly dedicated personnel. And while the District is a professional organization and Bethesda a voluntary one, they provide the same service -- emergency medical attention for those in need.

Why then is one successful and the other the target of public distrust?

The answer lies in community support. The citizens of Bethesda, Chevy Chase and upper Northwest Washington have supported the BCC squad for more than 50 years with their funds and with their time. Some members of the Bethesda organization are the third generation in a family to volunteer their help.

The District should learn by this example and create the means by which D.C. residents could be included in emergency service operations. I'm not suggesting that the D.C. ambulance service become an all-volunteer organization, only that an auxiliary service might enable the city to use the talents of its citizens.

A youth corps, for example, could yield potential personnel while giving young people a chance to find an alternative to the streets. And a neighborhood corps, once trained in basic emergency techniques, could lend valuable assistance to a neighbor prior to the arrival of a medical unit. The interaction of D.C. citizens with those people whose careers are to protect and serve them would be to the benefit of all.

A. Peter Bagwell is a member of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Rescue Squad.