The hot seat: Why volunteers in EMS are an endangered species

It is only a matter of time before a major failure of the system reveals the system for what it is


New Jersey’s EMS system continues to fall apart at the seams — apparently without a plan to improve its ability to respond reliably on a daily basis.

The scary thing about this story is that who knows how often incidents like this occur throughout the state on a daily basis. We’ll probably never know. I’m not clear whether any data or records are kept about basic facts like response times, missed calls, mutual aid and so forth.

This isn’t a rural area, Hasbrook Heights is a suburb of 11,000, located close to Passaic. In fact, the area is densely populated with many small jurisdictions splitting up the emergency response work. That has to be pretty expensive — even with volunteers.

Discussions with individuals intimate with the NJEMS system reveals the classic conundrum — everyone knows there is a problem. Yet, tradition gets in the way.

Volunteering in EMS used to be popular when Americans could thrive on a single income, worked in town, and when running an EMS service was simpler. That was perhaps thirty years ago. Since then, it’s pretty clear times have changed, making the volunteer an endangered species.

Agencies have been trying to recruit — without success. It isn’t for lack of trying, because the intention is noble. But the reason why there are few volunteeers is that there simply aren't any.

New Jersey has known this for some time. It is only a matter of time before a major failure of the system puts the leadership in the hot seat and reveals the system for what it is — very fragile, antiquated and very stuck.

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