Volunteer EMS services struggle to find enough volunteers - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Volunteer EMS services struggle to find enough volunteers

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SPRING GREEN (WKOW) -- EMS departments across the state are struggling to find people willing to become an EMTs.

According to a 2015 Wisconsin Emergency Medical Services report, there were about 746,000 statewide emergency calls, but there are only about 16,000 EMS personnel to respond to them.

Like many volunteers, EMT Susan Washa of Spring Green EMS juggles a professional job during the day and can't respond to every call.

"During the daytime is when we really struggle to get enough help," Washa said.

Service Director Derek Miller says the department currently has 15 active volunteers, but only five are available during the day.

"[Ideally] I'd rather be running eight to ten [volunteers] that are possible for the daytime," said Miller.

A big reason for the shortage? Volunteers say it has to do with the time commitment to become a licensed EMT, which can take about 180 hours of training.

"It's about a 180-hour commitment where you go to class and have practicals and go on ambulance runs," said Washa.

Another volunteer EMT Micheal Broh says he'd like to see more people give up their time to become a certified EMT.

"I know that there are people out there that would really like doing this if they gave it a chance, that its a lot of work to get started but once you get started it becomes part of your life and you become a stronger person for it," said Broh, who has been with the service for 17 years.

Miller says the shortage puts more pressure on their active volunteers.

"People have to maybe cancel other things they want to do or they have to pull away at times when it's not easy and sacrifice more of their days...that becomes more difficult to do," said Miller, who worries about some of his volunteers burning out. "If you get to a point to where the group of EMTs that you're running gets too small and the pressure on everyone gets heavier that it accelerates."

Miller and other volunteer EMTs are urging their community members to jump in and help out with public safety.

"There's always a high of feeling like you've done something important, done something that matters and helped somebody," said Broh. "If we're not here to help, people are going to die."

EMS service departments are trying to work with state legislators to support bills that would fill the staffing of EMTs in smaller communities.

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