How to use tax incentives to boost EMS recruitment

Tax incentives are one way to incentivize volunteer EMS professionals for agencies struggling with EMS recruitment and retention

By Allison G. S. Knox, faculty member at American Military University

Emergency medical services agencies throughout the United States have experienced a number of challenges with recruitment and retention in recent years. For some agencies, volunteers are the backbone of the agency, as many localities simply cannot afford paid staff.

In many cases throughout the country, recruitment and retention has become difficult to the point where some EMS agencies cannot remain open. For example, the volunteer rescue squad in Orange County, Va., had to permanently close its doors when the agency couldn’t keep up with its obligations to the county.

EMS recruitment through free emergency training

For many agencies, offering free training to their local residents has become an important way of retaining volunteers. Emergency training is expensive and it can be difficult for some people to obtain unless that training is connected to an agency. This recruitment method has been an excellent source of recruitment and retention.

Culpeper County government considers a tax incentive for EMS volunteers

In Culpeper County, Va., the county government is currently considering a tax incentive of up to $600 for any individual who volunteers for the fire and rescue departments more than 144 hours a year. The idea was originally proposed by the Culpeper County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association, an organization comprised of several volunteer fire and rescue organizations.

If the tax incentive legislation is passed by Culpeper County, it will have an interesting effect on recruitment and retention for the volunteer fire and rescue agencies. Not only is this a “thank you” from the county government, but it may very well prove to be an important incentive to entice volunteers.

Furthermore, the tax incentive may create some competition. Fire and rescue agencies in Culpeper County would be in a great position to only accept the highest quality of volunteers, which could strengthen their overall emergency management.

Public policies can motivate EMS volunteers

Public policies are an important piece of any fire and rescue agency’s retention and recruitment strategies. They can significantly motivate people to join EMS and fire agencies or discourage volunteers. Considering the EMS staffing problems throughout the country, other agencies may find that a tax incentive such as the one being considered by Culpeper County would work equally well for them.

About the author
Allison G. S. Knox is a faculty member at American Military University, teaching courses in Emergency and Disaster Management. Her research interests are comprised of emergency management and emergency medical services policy issues. Prior to teaching, Allison worked in a level one trauma center emergency department and for a Member of Congress in Washington, D.C. She holds four Master of Arts degrees in emergency management, international relations, national security studies and history. She is a certified lifeguard, MET and is also trained in Technical Large Animal Emergency Rescue. Allison currently serves as Advocacy Coordinator of Virginia for NAEMT, Chapter Sponsor for the West Virginia Iota Chapter of Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society, and Faculty Advisor for the Political Science Scholars. She is also on the Board of Trustees and serves as Chancellor of the Southeast Region for Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society in the Social Sciences. She can be reached at For more articles featuring insight from industry experts, subscribe to In Public Safety’s bi-monthly newsletter.

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