Iowa EMS asks community for help after staff falls to half capacity
Story City's EMS department has asked businesses to encourage volunteerism by letting employees leave for emergency calls
Ames Tribune, Iowa
STORY CITY, Iowa — The Story City/Lafayette Township First Responders department needs volunteers to help fill its roster and provide emergency medical assistance to local folks in need of help.
But the Story City organization isn't alone. A lack of volunteers is a problem being felt across Story County, according to Story County Emergency Management director Keith Morgan.
“It’s really about community,” he said. “If we don’t have volunteers step up to take these critical positions, it’s going to result in either decreased services or else we’re going to have to pay more for those services.”
He encouraged businesses across the county to be supportive of having employees serve as first responders by being willing to allow their employees to leave during the day if they receive an emergency call.
Morgan encouraged residents to seek out community service organizations and “offer up what you can so that we can keep our communities together and keep these kinds of services at a reasonable price.”
The crew size in Story City’s EMS department is about half of what it’s allowed to be, according to EMS Chief Mike McGuigan.
“We’re allowed to have 25 on our crew, and we have 10 or 11,” he said.
Six members of the crew are certified emergency medical technicians, which he said is key to the success of an EMS department.
“We can’t respond to a call without having a certified EMT on the call,” said Adam Tryon, assistant EMS chief.
Some members of the department are working toward their EMT certification and in the meantime, they help out as drivers. All members have a minimum of CPR certification. Volunteers who are interested in being more involved at an EMT level can achieve that with 120 hours of training.
More personnel in the department would help the Story City-area first responders cover the 100 square mile area, which is the same coverage area as the Story City Fire Department. Fire and EMS have a few members in common and share the same building, but the two are separate departments.
For McGuigan and Tryon, being involved in the department is fulfilling.
“People call 911 on their worst day,” Tryon said. “We respond and our goal is to bring calm to the chaos.”
A certified EMT, Tryon is a volunteer for his community “so I get to help my friends and neighbors,” he said.
Tryon’s experience with the department led him to a career field he loves, working full-time for a department in the Des Moines metro area.
“Adam’s a good example of someone who joined our ranks, got their EMT and then went on to get their paramedic training,” McGuigan said. “It could be looked at as a stepping stone to a career.”
Tryon said it’s a good step for a high school graduate who’s unsure of a path for a career or college.
“If they want to stick around (the area), they can get certified and go find a job, because there are jobs down at Mary Greeley and there are jobs in the metro area,” Tryon said.
McGuigan said his department is looking for motivated people who live in the area, are at least 18 years of age and are willing to go through training.
Story City’s EMS department stays busy, covering about 300 calls a year. Volunteers can commit to as much training and as many calls as they feel they can handle.
McGuigan said it has been about six years since the EMS roster was “at its heyday,” but several members had reached retirement age and didn’t want to be on call anymore.
“Small towns that don’t have the finances to provide full-time, paid service rely on volunteers,” Tryon said. “It’s been kind of a cultural shift between generations.
This article originally appeared on Ames Tribune: Bringing 'calm to the chaos': Story County departments feel need for more first responder volunteers
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