Volunteers needed for NJ first aid squads
New Jersey, just like every state across the country, is peppered with towns that are struggling to recruit volunteers for their first aid squads.
In this rough and tumble economy, getting anyone to do anything for free is not the easiest task, even if it could be a matter of life or death.
Over the past few years, the Clinton First Aid & Rescue Squad has been dealing with a nasty combination - a downturn in the number of volunteers, plus a significant spike in call volume.
The squad's website cited 3,009 dispatches in 2015, compared to 2,614 one year prior.
"Volunteers are the life blood of what we do in our community," said Bucky Buchanan, Clinton's deputy chief of EMS.
In response to the unfortunate trend, the squad launched an all-out campaign in early January to garner interest among local residents. The campaign's slogan - "The power to save others is in your hands. Share it."
The website joinclintonems.com is devoted solely to recruiting volunteers. In addition, multi-page fliers were sent to all residents within the squad's response area. There's also a banner downtown with a call out for help.
"We have already seen over a dozen applications come in...which is a huge number," Buchanan said. "We don't see that many in a full year at times."
Of course, the weak economy has kept folks away from taking on unpaid work, but according to Howard Meyer with the EMS Council of New Jersey, the biggest reason for a volunteer drop-off is the way training has changed over recent years.
Training hours jumped from 110 hours to more than 250 hours in some cases, he said, and the education is no longer run by a statewide syllabus.
"We're not saying that the training shouldn't be there," Meyer said. "We're saying that we need to step back and take a look at how the training's being delivered."
Meyer said volunteer shortages are seen nationwide, and it's a problem that has gotten worse over time.