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Ambulance Volunteer Crisis: Who Should Fill the Recruitment Gap?

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By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

Some ambulance companies across the United States have an excellent retention rate with volunteers who are willing to do the work. But many volunteer ambulance agencies are having extraordinary trouble trying to staff their ambulances.

Where Are the Ambulance Volunteers Now?

In past decades before the current volunteer crisis reared its ugly head, volunteer fire departments were bursting at the seams with individuals eager to hop on trucks and save lives. The need was certainly there and people were eager to help their community.

Today, it can be very hard for an ambulance company to find volunteers willing and able to work on the ambulances, let alone without a salary.

The volunteer pool is drying up before our eyes. In an economy in which work is often hard to come by, agencies struggle because volunteers need paying jobs and cannot devote the time ambulance services need during the workweek. A volunteer ambulance service in Virginia recently closed because it did not have enough volunteers.

Recruiting Ambulance Volunteers from CERT Teams

Despite these realities, there are a few ways to improve the volunteer retention rate. For example, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) are a new idea that has swept the country. These teams are great venues to learn about emergency management and disaster preparation. Volunteer ambulance services should recruit individuals from CERTs who are willing to help their respective communities with 911 calls.

These individuals have something in common with volunteers from the 1940s and 1950s; they want to help their community. Volunteer agencies shouldn’t try reinventing the wheel when it comes to recruitment. Instead, they should try to recruit people they already know have an interest in working emergencies.

Recruiting Volunteers from Emergency Management Classes and Other Organizations

There are many classes throughout the country that teach aspects of emergency management. The students who take these classes clearly have an interest in working emergencies, so they are a good source for potential volunteers.

Similarly, volunteer agencies should develop partnerships with local schools and recruit directly from the classes. Boy Scouts of America, American Red Cross Lifeguard certification classes and Emergency Medical Technician classes could be suitable recruitment pools.

By being creative and seeking volunteers who demonstrate a clear interest in helping others,  ambulance agencies will find it easier to solve their staff shortages. This practice will also benefit communities by helping local citizens get medical treatment or other aid more quickly.

Allison G. S. Knox Passionate about the issues affecting ambulances and disaster management, Allison focuses on Emergency Management and Emergency Medical Services policy. Allison has taught at the undergraduate level since 2010. Prior to teaching, she worked in a level-one trauma center emergency department and for a member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four master’s degrees in Emergency Management, National Security Studies, International Relations, and History; a Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security; and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. Allison is an Emergency Medical Technician, Lifeguard, and Lifeguard Instructor, and is trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. She serves on the Board of Trustees for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society as Chancellor of the Southeast Region, Vice Chair of the Tactical Emergency Medical Support Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and serves as the Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She is also a member of several committees including the Editorial Committee with APCO, the Rescue Task Force Committee with the International Public Safety Association, and the Advocacy Committee with the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. She also serves as Chair of the Leadership Development Program for the 2020 Pi Gamma Mu Triennial Convention. Allison has published several book reviews and continues to write about issues affecting ambulances, emergency management, and homeland security.