Is Vol EMS still relevant in 2024


Forum Captain
Here's a question for you, in 2024 do you think Volunteer EMS is still relevant, or is it in its last days and we could see the end of Volunteer EMS?

Here's my theory on this, if you look at the economy and how people have to hold two or 3 jobs to make ends meet. I think people are finding it harder and harder to Volunteer with an EMS or fire dept.


Dodges Pucks
Community Leader
I can't imagine that rural and frontier communities will never not have volunteer first response BLS.

But I hope that as the profession grows that EMS is provided by paid professionals who are accountable and dedicated to being good providers. If places want to augment with volunteer staff fine, but to me this job is too complex to be someone's hobby.


Forum Lieutenant
One of the places volunteer EMS is still very relevant is in med school applications. Med schools and even regular 4 year colleges are wanting applicants to have volunteering experience. And the med schools want an accounting of how many hours have been spent on getting some medical experience. Prehospital EMS lets high schoolers (at 16 years old in Virginia) start accumulating experience and volunteer hours.


Forum Captain
I think that with this country's poor economy, Volunteer EMS is fast approaching irrelevancy. Too many people with too many jobs can't afford the time to help their community. Then you factor in the aging population and the lack of interest from Generation Z. Many Volunteer EMS orgs are closing and converting to paid service or a combination.


Family Guy
I doubt that this will change come 2024. Given the vast differences in geography throughout our country, volunteers are almost mandated in certain areas.

The decrease in volunteers is also by no means new. I do agree with @Tigger , in a perfect world their training would be much more qualified and integrated with FT professionals, and used in an augmented role. Help us help you.


Leading Chief
I just saw a suburban volunteer fire co. get decertified due to lack of volunteers. This particular department is/ was big, and I never thought would go under. I was in a volunteer dept that was starting to go career in 1975 and is now career with a couple certified volunteers. At one point I was active duty Navy and was fully certified fire and NREMT paramedic. Retired from the Navy and figured I would go career fire. Nope! Got picked up on the cops. Time and training requirements, can't do everything well, so I came off the trucks. My PD let me train on city time so I kept my medic. It's hard.
I hope there will always be a place for motivated and dedicated people who want to volunteer.


The fire extinguisher is not just for show
It is my dream that the nation's EMS system will be 100% staffed with full time personnel, who are able to handle all of their call volume on their own in a reasonable (as defined by the AHJ, the authority having jurisdiction) response time, without needing a first responder to "stop the clock." Of course, there will be calls where the FD is sent for manpower or specialized skills (MVAs with entrapment or as traffic blockers, cardiac arrests, technical rescues, etc), but they wouldn't need to function as medical providers, but just as extra hands who can do labor or provide specialized skills.

However that's not realistic, for a variety or reasons.
1) most urban EMS systems will bandaid an understaffed EMS system with a fire engine first responder to stop the clock. This is especially common with career or combination fire departments in cities, and the suburbs, but volunteer first responders are common in the rural areas too, for the same reason.
2) the AHJ determines the appropriate level of service, the appropriate level of staffing, and the appropriate funding model.

Is there a place for volunteers in EMS? Absolutely, as a 3rd person, while they get trained up to a certain level, but once they are cleared to drive and be an essential part of a crew, they should be converted to a part time employee.

That all being said, the US will never have my dream EMS system. There are too many rural areas where there isn't a large enough tax base to fund a full time EMS system; what happens is the AHJ gets tired of extended responses, and forms a volunteer BLS EMS system. the response becomes "it's better than nothing, which is what we have, and cheaper than a full time ALS system." And too many government leaders are not willing to provide adequate funding and staffing to EMS system, because many don't care about EMS until it affects them personally.

Remember, it's rarely the case where there isn't money for EMS, it's that the money is being allocated to other priorities of our elected leaders, based on the wishes of the AHJ.