Erie County Fire and EMS Recruitment and Retention Committee holds seminar to discuss decreasing number of volunteers

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In an effort to increase the number of workers and volunteers for fire and EMS crews, Erie County Fire and EMS Recruitment and Retention Committee held a seminar.

This seminar was designed to bring everyone together to build and bridge those relationships and start the conversation of how to solve some of the biggest problems fire and EMS crews are facing.

Fire and EMS services in Pennsylvania have been suffering from low numbers of volunteers and people entering into the EMS workforce.

The chairwoman of the Erie County Fire and EMS Retention Committee said that this has been a problem since the 70’s when volunteers first started to decline.

“As of today there is about 38,000 volunteers in fire in Pennsylvania. Back then fifty years ago there was 500,000. So there has been a significant decline in volunteers,” said Jessica Horan-Kunco, Chairwoman of the Erie County Fire & EMS Retention Committee.

Dozens of people attended this seminar. Topics included solutions already in place across Pennsylvania.

Due to the low number of volunteers, fire stations in Pennsylvania had to make some changes.

One guest speaker explained some solutions that have already been in place across the State of Pennsylvania.

“So some solutions across Pennsylvania has been moving from an all volunteer system to combination system which means there are some paid firefighters and volunteer firefighters regionalization which three or four organizations come together to develop a larger organization,” said Jerry Ozog, PA Fire & Emergency Services Institute.

One of the main takeaways from this seminar is to make emergency services more effective for the community.

The need for a solution comes from a low number of people entering the workforce in emergency services.

“We really need to figure out how we can provide the services the citizens need in this crisis environment and the only way we can do that is if we coordinate and collaborate and work together,” said Horan-Kunco.

Ozog does say that one way he and other people are increasing those number of volunteers is by creating a college tuition reimbursement program as a way to try to attract younger people into the workforce.

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