MARTINSVILLE, Va. (WFXR) — A nationwide shortage is making its way to southwest Virginia as local fire departments — such as the Martinsville Fire & EMS Department — face a lack of emergency medical technicians (EMTs).
“You make sacrifices with your family, sacrifices with yourself, and then once you are actually doing it more of the severe challenges is staying well,” said Martinsville Fire Chief Ted Anderson.
Becoming an EMT is a demanding job. According to Anderson, at least four EMTs will be leaving his department by next month.
“It would surprise you some of the entry-level salaries as low as they are,” said Anderson. “I have actually seen some fast food places offering starting salaries higher than what some firefighter EMTs start at.”
When Anderson took the test to be a firefighter about 25 years ago, he went up against 100 applicants. Now, he says they can barely get 10 to 12 people.
Meanwhile, the fire department has to find creative ways to compensate for the lack of applicants.
“In order to keep the same status we have,” Anderson explained. “We provide emergency transport for people at the emergency level and non-emergency level. We try to hire people who are already certified as firefighters and paramedics.”
So far, the EMT shortage has not affected the department’s emergency response times, but fire officials are still working to get more people on board to prevent any changes.
Last year, the Martinsville Fire & EMS Department added a hiring bonus so anyone who wanted to join the department would receive extra money. However, Anderson says there were different criteria newcomers had to reach.
According to Anderson, the department’s goal is to balance both recruitment and retention for first responders.
When it comes to becoming an EMT, Anderson offered the following advice: “Don’t let yourself be the one to tell you no.”
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