Trending Topics

Poll call: 82% of respondents have no available units on a daily or weekly basis

A recent EMS1 poll of nearly 700 participants found a staggering majority were frequently unable to respond to calls due to a lack of ambulances

ambulance bay IMG_3324 960x.jpg

Austin-Travis County EMS

Though the pandemic exacerbated many challenges for EMS, staffing woes have been a sore spot for years before the chaos of 2020/2021. However, with rising call volumes, a competitive employee-friendly job market and increasing inflation rates, staffing is more of a challenge now than before COVID showed up on the scene.

Additionally, long offload wait times at hospitals and the global microchip shortage are two factors impacting agency operations around the country, on top of the staffing challenges.

Organizations are feeling the pinch; more than half (58%) of the nearly 700 participants in a recent EMS1 poll said their agency is unable to respond to calls on a daily basis due to a lack of available units.


On the EMS1 Facebook page, readers were discussing the poll and what they were seeing at their agencies.

A few commenters commiserated about how often they had no available units:

“At least once every hour.” — Hugo Enrique Silva

“760 times in a 6-month period.” — Elizabeth McInnis

“Any time we get more than 2 EMS calls. If we do we call mutual aid. We don’t need have a fancy term for it.” — Brendan McStay

“All of the time now. More common in the day than night, but all of the time.” — Matt Gilmore

“Literally every day.” — Thomas O’Leary

“Almost always …” — Caroline Stark

“At least twice a night, possibly 3 times during the day. Many times due to sending an ALS truck on a long distance psych transfer to a facility over 3 hours away…..” — Michael Minter

Some offered up personal success stories:

“Actually often until we implemented BLS 911 trucks with ALS intercept. Cut our status zero times in half at least! Coming from a company that runs 47,000 calls a year with only 9 24-hour trucks and 3 10-2200 peak hour trucks. [Two] of those are the BLS 911 rigs. Huge help. Let EMTs do their job!!!!!” — Jeremy Bell

Reply to Jeremy Bell: “Amen to that! I love [the] idea of BLS trucks with ALS intercepts, like you say, let the EMTs do their jobs, it makes them better providers when they actually get to work, I know it did for me before I got my medic license.” — Eli Bell

Reply to Jeremy Bell: “Throw some AEMT in the mix too on those trucks and boom 80+% of your call volume is covered.” — Stuart MacGrugenhoffer

Reply to Jeremy Bell: “Our company does that from time to time. They’ll respond with a BLS unit, either have supervisor, paramedic on fly car respond with or they’ll have ALS intercept.” — Gregory Jackson

“Rarely, I volunteer in a large system with a paid fire EMS dept with roughly 18 ambulances, staffed either ALS or BLS, a minimum of 22 engine companies with ALS staffing 2 volunteer BLS engines and 4 volunteer EMS agencies licensed at the ALS level with either ALS or BLS staffing. We let BLS do their jobs and transport when ALS is not warranted and if resources get depleted we post apparatus in strategic positions and implement a volunteer EMS recall to get more ambulances on the street.” — Brandon Baugus

“Happens in my county occasionally. When that happens, they send an ALS truck from main station to the county line if all trucks are on calls in the next county since we cover multiple counties. As far as out of the main statins and stations around that in the county when they are all taken, they will put a paramedic on a BLS truck with a monitor and jump bag and run the call on a BLS truck.” — Jeremy M. Farmer

“Some companies in my area had to rewrite their contracts to have an ambulance driver (EMR/ECA or even lower) with an EMT-Basic in the back. No ALS nor MICU. And an old paramedic admin having to jump back on the trucks are realizing the mistakes of demanding things from former staff.” — Adriana Julie Benson

Additional staffing resources

Looking for ways to combat your agency’s staffing issue and get more rigs into service? Check out these additional items:

Rachel Engel is an award-winning journalist and the senior editor of and In addition to her regular editing duties, Engel seeks to tell the heroic, human stories of first responders and the importance of their work. She earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from Cameron University in Lawton, Oklahoma, and began her career as a freelance writer, focusing on government and military issues. Engel joined Lexipol in 2015 and has since reported on issues related to public safety. Engel lives in Wichita, Kansas. She can be reached via email.

Montgomery County officials and EMS providers are exploring issues regarding funding, staffing
Jury selection begins Monday for Aurora Fire Department paramedics Jeremy Cooper and Lt. Peter Cichuniec
An advisory board member for Somerset-Pulaski EMS suggested that the long-term solution is for Pulaski to create a special taxing district
Capt. Jeffrey Scott Klein was in charge of a 2020 medical response that led to the death of a patient who was put in a prone position