SD ambulance services see boost in volunteers

After announcing that three ambulance services would be forced to close, 11 people signed up to become certified EMRs

Caitlynn Peetz
The Daily Republic

GREGORY COUNTY, S.D. — 2018 is starting off on the right foot for Gregory County's ambulance services.

After announcing in August the county's three ambulance services in Gregory, Burke and Bonesteel/Fairfax would be forced to close if there's not an increase in volunteers, 11 people signed up for a class that began Tuesday to become certified emergency medical responders (EMR). To become an emergency medical technician (EMT) requires approximately 180 hours of training, whereas EMR training is typically 60 hours.

Burke Ambulance Department Vice President Mark Green said the number of people getting involved is encouraging and could help ease the burden on the departments.

But it might not be enough.

"It will help the services out. I can't say if it is enough to keep them alive though," Green said.

A majority of the students signed up for the EMR class are from the Bonesteel/Fairfax area, and 10 people are registered for an EMT class that starts in February. So each service will gain very few EMTs if they complete the course and pass the national registry test, Green said.

"Approximately 60 percent of Burke's EMTs are above the age of 50," Green said. "It is going to take several EMT classes over the next 10 or so years to keep up with the EMTs that will be lost to retirement."

If Gregory County was left without an ambulance, it could take more than 30 minutes for officials from neighboring Tripp or Charles Mix counties to respond, a dangerous length of time for someone in an emergency situation.

The Burke, Gregory and Bonesteel/Fairfax departments each currently operate with approximately six emergency medical technicians on staff, but many ambulance staff are nearing retirement, which led to the shortage concerns.

Copyright 2018 The Daily Republic

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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