Essential Emergency Services In The Long Descent

David Trammel's picture

Something I had not considered was to the degree that small rural emergency services, like fire and EMS depend on volunteers. Small professional services as well. I wonder how much of this is from the decrease in people looking for work, the wages being offered and the cost/time involved in getting your certificate/license to be an EMS tech or fire person?

This person, and those commenting, paint a declining picture for smaller providers.

"Curious if anyone else in here is a member of their local EMS, fire department, or town government? I'm on my local fire department and we're very concerned with the serious decline in volunteer first responders across the state (and country at large). It's pretty standard for small local departments lately to not see more than 2 or 3 people at most calls. Towns are considering consolidating under a full-time station model, but that's gonna be a HUGE increase in town expenses and longer response times if they're covering a wider region. Equally alarming, the local ambulance contract for several of our neighboring towns is going to rise exponentially next year. Two towns are seeing a spike on their yearly EMS bill of $10,000 to over $100,000. And the local ambulance company has retired 12 trucks, leaving only 6 on the road, after so many months of EMS crews working back to back multiple shifts. I don't really have any solutions to offer, but I want to pass on what I'm hearing in hopes of helping us all prepare. It's not looking good."

I already know I DO NOT want to be transported to a hospital by an EMS or Ambulance service because of the sky high cost associated with them now. Or use an emergency room either. But I'd always assumed the services would be there.

Part of the problem with volunteer staffing is how few people work where they live.
If you work 20 miles away, it's a lot harder to rush to emergencies.
Plus, your boss (who also doesn't live AND work in your home town) is much less keen on his staff racing off to put out the fire.

Then, after you've put in long hours at the job along with the lengthy commute, you get home to a place where you don't know anyone and you're too darned tired to go racing around at midnight to answer fire calls.

I would also believe that our sue-happy, don't do anything that inconveniences you in the slightest culture might add another factor.

As we all localize, this may change back from sheer self-interest.

Justin Patrick Moore's picture

Here is another thing... with power outages and other type outages can come 911 outages. 911 may not even exist in some rural areas already (IIRC a commenter here mentioned that, or it might have been someone in a ham group).

Seattle had a major 911 outage recently. Got this link from a ham group I am in...

Anyone else remember that song by Public Enemy?

lathechuck's picture

I wonder how much of the rising cost of emergency services is due to liability insurance? Big liability judgements ("how can you put a price on human life?") could price EMS beyond reach. So, with less effective emergency responders, we should expect to see more deaths due to accident and acute illness (heart attack & stroke).

A futuristic take on self-driving cars forecast that emergency services will simply be starved for business, since careless drivers will no longer be involved in as many accidents, and self-driving food delivery services will make kitchen fires obsolete, too. And if smokers stop falling asleep with lit cigarettes, what's to cause a bedroom fire? "Work-from-home" should cut down on traffic accidents, too, but it seems that lighter traffic density around here just encourages people to drive like maniacs.

It's not just small towns that are having trouble with EMS. During the heat dome, there was a big spike in heat illnesses, coming on top of covid and drug overdoses. The ambulances just couldn't keep up, and people died waiting, including in Vancouver and the rest of the lower mainland.

There's also been an announcement that 911 despatchers will no longer remain on the line with the 911 caller. Instead there'll be a gap until you get switched to the appropriate branch. It's supposed to be short average 45s, but could potentially be a lot longer if they're getting overwhelmed with calls. The reason is lack of despatchers. They're trying to hire more.

Other local services are impacted too. In Victoria, they can't find enough bus drivers, so schedules have begun fluctuating, and they've removed paper schedules. You're supposed to check on your cellphone... but not everyone has cellphones with significant data, so people are yelling at them and they've said paper schedules will be back in January.

And the recycling depots aren't taking glass for a few weeks, and gas is still rationed at gas stations.