Home Resources Education Solving the Nation’s Need for Ambulance Volunteers Requires Creative Solutions

Solving the Nation’s Need for Ambulance Volunteers Requires Creative Solutions


By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest

Ambulance agencies across the United States are having trouble finding enough volunteers to staff their ambulance services.  A volunteer rescue squad in Fredricksburg, 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 that the ambulance services require.  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.

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 classses 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 their search is among individuals who already have shown an interest in emergency response.

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.