Shortage of Volunteers or Crisis of Integrity?

It's Saturday morning in a suburb of Milwaukee, population about 11,000, and I'm listening to our ambulance respond for the second time this morning to our neighbor jurisdiction for an EMS call.  They--apparently--have not one EMT available to respond to this call, not even as a first responder while they wait for our ambulance to arrive.  This also means that anyone in our own town needing an ambulance will be waiting longer because our ambulance, the ambulance they pay for with their tax dollars, isn't here.

I'm a little tired this morning because I spent the night running EMS calls for my own jurisdiction.  I wasn't on call.  Our first ambulance was already occupied, and a second call came in.  So I went.  So did a few others.  Including a firefighter who isn't even an EMT, but is willing to drive the ambulance to help us cover calls.

As we responded to the call, we discussed the number of people we knew--for a fact--were in town, available for a call, and chose not to respond.  This is the most frequent topic of conversation in any second-out ambulance in our town.  The same people keep responding to second calls, and express the same frustration with people unwilling to respond to calls.

The same situation exists in our neighboring jurisdiction who has come to know that they can continuously rely on our department for mutual aid.  So, when the 2am call comes in that no one wants to run, they roll over in bed, go back to sleep, and let the next town cover it.  On many occasions, however, we notice that the exciting calls, the rollover accidents and extrication calls, those calls they seem to have personnel available to cover.  It's the boring, routine calls they ignore and leave to us.

Sadly, the same is true in our own city.  We have our own first-out crew scheduled and can always send at least one ambulance out.  When the second calls come in, however, they only get covered if the call is interesting, or if certain dedicated people happen to not already be on schedule.

It's hard to convince people that serving on a fire department is a privilege and honor when the department is so desperate for personnel that they continue to employ deadbeats and scoffers.  EMTs who don't attend mandatory training, or any training, suffer no consequences.  EMTs who never respond to second calls are not embarrassed about it.

I'm not the chief.  I don't run the EMS department.  So my power to change things is limited to leading by example, and venting my frustration.

But I'll tell you this.  If you're one of those deadbeat EMTs I'm talking about, your co-workers know it.  They have less respect for you because of it.  They resent your laziness and selfishness.  You're contributing to the stress and burnout of other EMTs.  And you're very much the problem.

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