EMT volunteers: Dundee has 'dire need'
DUNDEE--The Dundee Fire Department held an open house Saturday, April 29 to recruit firefighters and emergency medical technicians (EMTs).
Dundee Fire Chief Doug Miller said the need for EMTs is especially great. "The department has a dire need for EMTs," said Miller, "especially during the daytime hours." Miller said firefighters and ambulance drivers are also needed.
Diane Warriner is a Dundee resident, retired fire chief and an active EMT. She said that often, only two EMTs are available during the week in Dundee.
The 911 dispatchers at the Yates County Sheriff's Office in Penn Yan call teams closest to the scene of an emergency. Volunteers have apps on their phones that are synchronized with the call-board in the firehouse. The app lets everyone know who is responding to the calls, how long it will take them to get to the ambulances and when they will be in-route.
"Minutes count in an emergency," said Don Austin, current captain of the Dundee Ambulance Corps. Teams have eight minutes to respond to a call. If no one is available, backup from surrounding areas takes over, adding more travel time to get to the scene.
Bill Kennedy, emergency management and fire coordinator of Schuyler County, says the problem of finding qualified volunteers is statewide. He has been an emergency responder for more than 40 years. He says this issue "worries him the most."
He said, "Over the years, the tendency to volunteer is not as great as it used to be. Time is a problem. More families have to work two jobs or work away from home. The training requirements have increased significantly and the education process is always on-going. Volunteering is a big commitment."
Training time to become an EMT includes about 150 to 180 hours of classroom and on-the-job training. A state test and first-hand experience are required. After the requirements are met, volunteers become certified in the state of New York as emergency medical technicians. When volunteers join a fire department first, the training is free. Alternatively, training can occur in a college setting at the expense of the volunteer.
Twenty-two-year-old Josiah Peachey said he sees his EMT training as the first step in his future career. "I'm in training for fire now," said Peachey, "but my ultimate goal is to be an EMT and then a paramedic. I enjoy it. It is not a style or a fashion. There will always be a need for medical help."
Emergency Management Coordinator of Yates County Chris Warriner said emergency services differ in adjacent counties and towns. For instance, in Dundee, the ambulance services are included in the village taxes and the emergency services are not allowed to bill. However, in Penn Yan, taxes do not cover the ambulance, so they can bill. Schuyler County also has paid EMTs and paramedics.
Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hospital provides an advanced life support unit called the "Medic 55 Fly-car" based in the emergency department. It is not an ambulance but can meet local ambulances in-route to their destination or it can be dispatched to the scene of an emergency. It is staffed by EMTs and paramedics.
Despite the paid services, they are not enough to cover local needs. Dundee receives more than 400 calls a year, on average at least one a day and sometimes more. Volunteers are needed to handle the volume.
Kennedy said he hopes more people realize volunteering can be life enriching. He said his whole family is part of the fire department and EMT squad. His wife, two sons and both their wives are volunteers. He said his family is "not special....You will find this all across the state. Many departments have whole families who join."
Thirty-year-old paramedic Casey Saltsman of Penn Yan said his job has enriched his life and his co-workers become like family. He said, "The biggest thing is helping other people. If it weren't for us, who knows? If someone calls 911, they are not having a good day. When we show up, we change that for them. It makes my day seem worthwhile. I feel really good when I know I've made a difference."
The past week's recruitment was part of the state-wide RecruitNY campaign for volunteer firefighters. Four hundred and sixty-four departments participated in the event.
Dundee will be having another recruitment for EMTs Saturday, May 20 at the ambulance building behind the Dundee Firehouse from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. For more, call 607-243-8441.