This article originally appeared on EDM Digest.
By Allison G. S. Knox, EMT-B, faculty member at American Military University
Ambulance agencies across the United States are having trouble finding enough volunteers to staff their ambulance services. A volunteer rescue squad in Fredericksburg, Virginia recently faced closure because it could not meet its obligations as an EMS agency to provide the needed services to the county. Among the squad’s problems was not having enough volunteers to staff its ambulances.
Other emergency response agencies struggle because volunteers need paying jobs and they cannot devote the time during the work week required by the ambulance service. Despite these realities, there are ways to combat the volunteer attrition rate.
The Way It Used to Be Isn’t the Way It Is Today
Decades before there was a volunteer crisis, fire departments especially seemed to be bursting at the seams with volunteers eager to hop on the fire engines and save lives. The need certainly was there, and individuals were eager to help their community.
But in today’s economy when work is hard to come by, finding volunteers with free time is particularly difficult. Volunteer agencies shouldn’t try to reinvent the wheel. They should try to recruit people who already have an interest in working emergencies.
[Related: Figuring out the Retention Puzzle]
Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) are a new idea that is catching on across the country. CERTs are a great way for interested individuals to learn about emergency management and to prepare to serve by responding to 911 calls. They also offer a great recruiting opportunity to find desperately needed volunteers for ambulance services.
There are many classes throughout the country that teach aspects of emergency management. Volunteer agencies need to develop partnerships with these programs and recruit directly from among their enrollees. Such programs include The Boy Scouts of America, American Red Cross Lifeguard certification classes and Emergency Medical Technician classes.
So, rather than starting at zero in terms of recruiting efforts, ambulance agencies need to think about where they can find volunteers. A good starting point for this search is among individuals who already have shown an interest in emergency response.
About the Author: Allison G. S. Knox is on the faculty at American Military University. Her research interests are comprised of emergency management and emergency medical services policy issues. Prior to teaching, Allison worked in a level one trauma center emergency department and for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four master of arts degrees in emergency management, international relations, national security studies and history. She also holds a graduate certificate in homeland security and a bachelor of arts in political science. Allison currently serves Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia for the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, Chapter Sponsor for the West Virginia Iota Chapter of Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society, Faculty Advisor for the Political Science Scholars and Chancellor of the Southeast Region on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society.