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Area ambulance squads holding it together...

A shortage of volunteers is always on the minds of small-town ambulance personnel. Population alone can often dictate how robust an ambulance or fire department is going to be.

5/08/18 (Tue)

A shortage of volunteers is always on the minds of small-town ambulance personnel. Population alone can often dictate how robust an ambulance or fire department is going to be.

Representatives of two small-town ambulance squads, say they are holding their own but are always in need of volunteers.

Alvis Martinson of Carpio said his ambulance squad has 13 personnel, that include five emergency medical technicians and one who is a driver only.

Shelly Iverson of the Tolley department, said her squad has two EMTs, one paramedic, one first responder and five drivers.

So despite Makoti and Glenburn ambulances recently being downgraded to quick response units, Carpio and Tolley are both doing OK, but both Iverson and Martinson admit it isn’t going to be that way forever.

Whether it’s recruiting, divine intervention, a need to serve the community, or something else, these two squads have managed to continue operations as they always have with adequate personnel.

Both, however, say they need volunteers for various positions, most notably EMTs.

According to Iverson, Tolley is actually a substation of the Mohall ambulance. Lansford and Sherwood are also substations of Mohall.

Since Glenburn is now incapable of transporting patients, the Lansford station is normally dispatched to take care of situations that might happen north of Glenburn.

At some point in time, official boundaries will change, but in the meantime, Iverson said the safety of residents in the Glenburn area is covered.

“We’re in the process of figuring out what to do with Glenburn,” Iverson said.

Since Makoti’s departure, Minot and Plaza have picked up the bulk of the “runs.” The change had no effect on Carpio however, it’s a concern nonetheless.

If and when there may be gaps, and a person’s life is in danger, a decision may have to be made to call in an air ambulance.

Martinson called it a “valuable asset,” but in most cases, Carpio is actually too close to Minot for it to be effective.

He mentioned a traffic accident in early June last year in which Hunter Rodin of Kenmare was airlifted to Minot.

There’s no way a ground ambulance could have got the patient to the hospital is as fast as a helicopter did.

“In that case, that service was especially valuable,” he said. “With a ground ambulance, drivers will use a reasonable amount of speed, but exceeding the speed limit, no matter how slight, still presents a danger.”

There’s also statute miles vs. air miles. The road often has curves, slower speed limits at times, farm machinery, animals on the road and other hurdles, but a air ambulance is a straight shot from accident scene to critical care facility.

Martinson, who teaches CPR classes at Minot State University, said even though Carpio’s numbers are holding up, one of the issues is that several of those people are also on the fire department.

“I wish I knew what we could do,” Martinson said. “You look at the population base and wonder, are they interested? In a given population, there is a certain percentage who can do this, but it’s not for everybody.”

With that said, Carpio has seen some younger volunteers, but Martinson added, they come with a different attitude than those veterans who are aging.

“They also need a wage to support their families,” he said. “And assume they get trained, will their employer let them go on a call. We’ve all got jobs, so it’s hard to have dedicated staff.”

The Carpio squad makes a run every 10 or 11 days on average and as weather becomes nicer and people become more active, more incidents are likely to occur, according to Martinson.

He likes to call the rise and fall of volunteers as cyclical. Just when you think you’ll have an issue staffing the squad, new volunteers come walking through the door.

But that’s the best-case scenario and Martinson knows the squad can’t count on that MO.

There’s lots of cooperation among neighboring squads, according to Martinson. Carpio often works together with Berthold and Kenmare, and sometimes Tolley and Minot.

A check of Kenmare and Berthold show that both have adequate staff, but representatives of both squads say they too, need volunteers.

In most situations in which an ambulance is needed, a police unit is on scene as well. They are trained to a certain degree, according to Martinson, and they can start the process of organizing the situation, but an officer can’t leave their post to transport patients.

Since local ambulance squads are a fee for service, the Carpio squad is financially solvent. Martinson said some have tax levy districts while others have local fund raising events and in his case, he keeps an eye out for grants, although he admitted those funds are beginning to dry up.

There’s a lot of variables on an ambulance or fire squad that could change in a minute, according to Martinson.

People move away, they might let their certification lapse, Air Force personnel who might be on the squad, get stationed elsewhere, or sometimes, they have to transport one of their own.

That’s why volunteers are so critical. Martinson said there is no way Carpio could afford to pay full-time staff. He said you really need three at a minimum to maintain a squad, but then you need again as many as back up. Based on population, there’s no way Carpio could support the payroll of up to six people.

There’s also the other end of the spectrum in which you exceed your limit on personnel. Martinson used the analogy of a baseball player who doesn’t get out on the field much. At some point in time, that individual will become disinterested if not gainfully employed.

“Yes, we’re always in need of volunteers, and for those who do, their incentives vary,” Martinson said. “Some do it for glory, some do it out of duty to their communities and some just like the rush of excitement.”

If anyone is considering serving on a squad, contact someone from your local squad; Lansford, Sherwood, Mohall, Tolley, Kenmare, Carpio and Berthold. If you can’t locate anyone from your local squad, contact Ward County Emergency Manager Amanda Schooling at (701) 857-6534... Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!