MOVILLE, Iowa (KCAU) – One fire department is stepping up their recruiting efforts at a time when first responders are on high alert as the COVID-19 virus continues to spread. Communities across the U.S are experiencing a shortage of EMS workers especially in rural areas where volunteers are relied on.
“They will keep an eye on us for rehab, check our heart rate, pulse, and blood pressure to make sure we’re staying safe,” said Fire Cheif Jerry Sailer with the Moville Fire Department.
The Moville Fire Department has 24 volunteer firefighters and only 14 EMS members.
“You never know what face is going to show up for any given call. It’s important that everyone is able to multitask and do all the functions that are necessary, whether it is a rescue call or a fire call,” said Sailer.
It has been an ongoing battle finding EMS recruits for rural area departments.
“If your heart’s not in it when you start, don’t start. Let’s wait ’til it is because we don’t want to see you get burnt out and lose you before you even get to the end,” said Tom Chartier an EMS coordinator at Moville Fire Department.
EMS training is a major time commitment especially for volunteers with full-time jobs.
“Training is a hundred and forty hours or so. And then you have to go do clinical, and you have to take care of X amount of people,” said Chartier.
Volunteers will then pay out of pocket nearly $2,500 for certification classes.
“It’s hard to come up with that kind of money to get started, even so, that’s another big downside to it,” said Chartier.
The department will use their own account to pay back volunteers and in return, they ask them to volunteer for at least two years.
“Our idea is no one should pay to volunteer. But until they’re certified, we really can’t afford to pay for them upfront so a lot of it is a reimbursement thing,” said Chartier.
There is a bill making its way through Iowa legislation that would use local taxes to provide departments like Moville with funds to help their EMS programs. Right now funds are typically made through calls and fundraisers.