NORA SPRINGS, Iowa - Emergency crews in rural areas are often made up of volunteers, but for many communities, the recruiting pool for these volunteers is shrinking.
However, this issue isn’t anything new. This shortage has been causing problems nationwide for a couple of years now, and we are seeing this trend in our area.
The Nora Springs Volunteer Ambulance Service is currently made up of six volunteer ambulance drivers and EMT’s. This small crew is in charge of any and all medical calls for their area, which is a job that has been known to require more man-power than they currently have.
In an effort to grow their emergency response team, the ambulance service has made a couple of updates to their volunteer station. The crew has just finished construction on an expansion to their building that includes two bedrooms, a living room, a small bathroom and a kitchenette.
The idea is to provide a comfortable living space for volunteer EMT’s like Issac Schwantes. He has been on the Nora Springs ambulance crew for a little over a year, and is one of the main residents of the new on-call apartment space.
Schwantes tells us, that in order to properly serve the community, they must have additional hands-on-deck. He’s hopeful that these new amenities will spark interest for certified EMT officials in surrounding communities, and they will volunteer their services and join the crew.
“If we could get a big enough volunteer basis for that that we could have people here during the week, and on the weekends. That’s my goal for this, and I think we can do it with this new addition now,” Schwantes says.
Dave Luett, the director of the Nora Springs Volunteer Ambulance Service believes the addition will be a game changer as well. With on-call hours being as demanding as they are, Luett says that creating this living space was the least they could do for the volunteers who do so much.
Not only do these ambulance drivers and EMT’s work to keep everyone in their community safe, they also work to be eligible to do so. He tells us that a driver must be certified in CPR, and must have a valid Iowa drivers license. EMT’s, on the other hand, must complete a four month course and additional hands-on training in order to be certified.
“It’s quite a commitment to become an EMT,” Luett says.
This lack of volunteers goes beyond rural communities like Nora Springs. According to the Minnesota Ambulance Association, approximately 60 percent of all emergency responders and paramedics in the state are volunteers, and nearly 200 rural ambulance services, like the Nora Springs program, are completely made up of volunteers as well.
To get involved in the volunteer service in Nora Springs, contact Dave Luett at (641) 430-8059.