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The home for VPR's coverage of health and health industry issues affecting the state of Vermont.

New State Campaign Looking To Recruit EMS And Medical Reserve Volunteers

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To help alleviate understaffed EMS agencies in Vermont, especially in rural areas, the Vermont Department of Health is trying to recruit volunteers to respond to 911 calls and assist during emergencies.

Dialing 911 may seem like a guaranteed way to get assistance during an emergency, but a state survey conducted last year found that two-thirds of EMS agencies in Vermont are understaffed.

The problem is particularly hard in rural areas and the Vermont Department of Health is trying to recruit volunteers to answer those calls. 

Chris Bell, Vermont’s director of public health preparedness, joined VPR to talk about the new program “On Call” that he helped launch.

Bell says they are looking for two different sets of people to volunteer. The state is recruiting EMS volunteers who will act as part of a first response agency or ambulance service for medical emergencies. The other group they are looking for are what Bell calls medical reserve core volunteers, which he describes as people with health care backgrounds or those who have an interest in helping out in a disaster.

So do you have a medical background to volunteer? Not necessarily, Bell says. “For the medical reserve core volunteers, we get backgrounds from EMS providers, from nurses physicians and other administrative people who can help out with [that side] of the work, [including] teachers and business professionals,” he says. “With the EMS people, you don’t have to have any background at all. The training is either provided for you or is provided at a low cost and you can go from no medical background or knowledge, to actually being able to help your neighbors or friends in the case of a medical emergency.”

"You don't have to have any background at all. The training is either provided for you or is provided at a low cost and you can go from no medical background or knowledge, to actually being able to help your neighbors or friends in the case of a medical emergency." - Chris Bell, director of public health preparedness

Bell says that there are 177 EMS agencies in the state of Vermont, many of which could use some extra help. “Virtually everywhere in the state I can point you towards an agency that would love to have you as a volunteer,” he says.

Bell says that every 911 call in Vermont does get answered by a first response crew, and that they are planning this volunteer push to help guarantee similar response rates moving forward.

Learn more about how to volunteer here.

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