Stanton Fire and Rescue members address volunteer shortage happening in small communities
STANTON, Neb. -- A fire and rescue agency in northeast Nebraska is facing a volunteer shortage.
Stanton Fire and Rescue are looking for new volunteers for both its fire and EMS agencies.
In 2003, the EMS agency had 22 EMTs on staff, but are now down to six.
There are also 16 firefighters currently on staff.
Lori Webster, an EMT with the department, shared her thoughts with News Channel Nebraska about why the shortage is happening.
"Basically age, the average age for an EMT or firefighter in the state of Nebraska is 45, so there's the age difference there," Webster said. "Just lack of time to be involved. I don't think people understand the volunteer term anymore."
A shortage of volunteers could prove to be a problem in a small town due to a long response time.
Shawnette Tomka, who is also an EMT with Stanton Fire and Rescue, detailed the process that the EMS agency has to prepare for a call.
"We have done a pretty good job, especially after work hours, come the weekends of letting each other know who is going to be in town," Tomka said. "Every day is 'Hey I know so-and-so is going to be in town so they can cover, while I can go get groceries.' It is difficult to always make sure that there is somebody staying in town, if we would get that call."
The amount of help that Stanton Fire and Rescue have needed while on the scene of fires and medical emergencies has varied from month to month.
Departments from Norfolk, Pilger, and Hadar have responded to calls alongside Stanton for assistance.
"I think it's important for people to know because if our numbers are dropping, then they are going to keep dropping and there won't be volunteer services in these small communities because there will not be people," Webster said.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, there are 7,300 EMS service members in Nebraska.
EMS volunteers need to take up to almost a year's worth of classes through the National Registry to become certified.
Tomka added that people may not want to complete the course if they don't have spare time.
NCN also asked Tomka and Webster about the perks of becoming either a firefighter or EMT and here's what they said.
"The perks are when people come up to you and say 'thank you so much. We appreciate your help, you did so well on the call,' Just that is a good perk," Webster said.
"Knowing that you helped somebody. You do that, you give up your time and, in a way, you don't even think of it that way because that's what you're there for," Tomka said.
If anyone is interested in joining Stanton Fire and Rescue, volunteers can call Stanton City Hall at 402-439-2119.