Letter to the Editor: You can help change the future of Allamakee County EMS

To the Editor:

Where you live may determine IF you live... This scary thought, becoming a familiar concern proposed to many rural EMS coverage areas, could be the future. What if there was no one available to respond to that ambulance call?

In Allamakee County there are 82 residents who are Emergency Medical Service (EMS) providers registered as active with the Iowa Bureau of Emergency and Trauma Services. The population of Allamakee County, according to the 2010 census was 14,330 people. In Allamakee County, we are very proud to say we have six communities with ambulance services equipped to respond and transport; Harpers Ferry, Lansing, New Albin, Postville, Waterville and Waukon.

If all 82 registered providers were active on one of the ambulance services, that would be approximately 13 people working to provide 24-hour, seven-days-a-week ambulance coverage in each community. However, about twenty percent of those registered providers do not regularly work with an ambulance service, leaving the reality that every one of the six communities in Allamakee County is struggling to find enough people to cover all the hours and the calls these ambulances are dedicated to 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

So far this year, as of the writing of this letter, the ambulances of Allamakee County have been requested 940 times. That means 940 times in the last almost 10 months at least two people have dropped what they were doing, at any time of day, and rushed to aid another individual or individuals. Each time, those EMS providers are gone from their job, family or whatever they were doing, for two hours, on average. That’s 1,880 hours or 47 weeks of full-time work, if every ambulance call was resolved in just two hours by two people, so far this year.

There are many times that those calls extend far beyond the two-hour average or two-person crew. Some of the other time consuming responsibilities of an active EMS provider are continuing education and training (24-60 hours each two years), ambulance service business meetings (approximately 12 hours a year), time put into restocking, cleaning and preparing equipment and trucks for service.

EMS isn’t a high profile, get rich quick lifestyle to be a part of. It’s a demanding and difficult lifestyle choice, in reality. However, there are times in EMS that we are able to be a part of a team truly making the difference in someone’s life; that “someone” possibly being your family member, friend or neighbor.

Anyone you talk to in Emergency Medical Services chose this lifestyle because they genuinely want to help people.

Unfortunately, each year we see fewer and fewer people interested in pursuing a life including EMS. If you are interested in joining the EMS community, we strongly encourage you to contact your local ambulance service and find out how to join the EMS lifestyle.

In January there will be a face-to-face EMT class held in Waukon, offered by NICC. We would love to see the class full of new and enthusiastic people also wanting to help others by joining the EMS community. We want to change the future of Allamakee County EMS.

We want every community to have enough people to provide the EMS resources needed to work at saving that life, regardless of where you live. Call NICC at 1-800-728-2256 and ask to register for the January EMT Class in Waukon.

Thank you for your consideration!

Waukon EMS Association

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