Fire department seeking qualified volunteers
The Monroe Township Fire Department needs volunteers, according to Monroe Township trustee Troy Hendren.
"That's an important part of our operation," he said.
Hendren said the department is having trouble recruiting qualified volunteers, and he hopes people realize the many well-paying careers in firefighting and emergency services, many of which begin on the volunteer level.
"People are making six figures who started as volunteers," Hendren said.
He said he thinks some of the reason volunteerism is down is because of fewer fire runs. Most runs involve the medic, and many people simply don't have the time to devote to volunteerism, he said.
Monroe Township Fire Chief Dudley Wright said it's not just the Johnstown area that lacks volunteers.
"This issue is not specific nor in anyway unique to Monroe Township," he said.
Wright said Monroe Township welcomes the opportunity to discuss volunteer opportunities with interested individuals.
"Volunteering is a big-time commitment and is certainly not for everyone," he said.
Wright said that a few years ago, the department started a program to accommodate volunteers from outside the Johnstown community.
"This gave us the opportunity to utilize the services of local volunteers and volunteers who live in communities that do not allow individuals to volunteer," he said. "We have had a lot of success with our 'out of town' volunteer program. They volunteer 96 hours per month, and we have been able to use their time very effectively."
He said "out of town" volunteers must be certified as a firefighter and EMT prior to becoming a volunteer.
"We continue to use volunteers in the community as well," Wright said.
He said many of the department's full-time and intermittent employees have come from the volunteer ranks, as they always have.
"This is a part of the traditional career path," Wright said.
Recruitment is a nationwide challenge in the volunteer fire service, said Kimberly Quiros, National Volunteer Fire Council director of communications. Nationally, the number of volunteers has declined about 14 percent since 1984.
"However, it's still important to realize that volunteers continue to make up 70 percent of the fire service and play a critical role in protecting our communities and our nation," she said.
Quiros attributed the challenges to many reasons. One is increased time demands that make it more difficult for individuals to volunteer.
"Many people are commuting longer distances to work or holding multiple jobs, lessening the time they have available to volunteer," she said. "An increase in training requirements in recent years has also meant that volunteering requires more time, even as people have less time to give."
The Monroe Township Fire Department is staffed with at least five firefighters who also are trained as paramedics/EMTs, Wright said, adding that this can be a combination of full-time, intermittent and volunteer staff, all of whom are on station ready to respond.
"This provides us with the ability to staff two ambulances for EMS runs or an engine and an ambulance for auto accidents without having to wait for staff to respond from home," Wright said. "It's our expectation that an ambulance will respond within 45 seconds during the day and nearly as fast at night."