- Associated Press - Thursday, February 27, 2014

SPENCER, Iowa (AP) - It’s getting harder for small Iowa cities to find and keep enough volunteers willing to staff their ambulances and it’s an increasing concern among fire chiefs and ambulance directors.

In cities with just a few hundred residents like Fostoria and Peterson in northwest Iowa it’s difficult to find people willing to attend the 100 hours of required training, The Daily Reporter in Spencer reported (http://bit.ly/1o9jo6Y ) .

“It’s two classes, two nights a week for four hours a night,” said Bernie Nord, Peterson Community Response Unit director. “Then, you’re reading for class all the other nights on top of working full-time. And, clinical training takes about 20 hours. Then you have to take the three-part EMT test.”

“It means a lot of time from families, and that keeps people from volunteering,” Peterson Fire Chief Luke Zalaznik said.

In addition, small town ambulance services offer no pay.

“It’s a big-time commitment for someone who is volunteering and gets no reward for it,” said Fostoria Assistant Fire Chief Dewey Stouffer.

His department has 20 volunteers on its roster, but only seven or eight are always active.

Zalaznik said it takes dedication to community and friends to be willing to volunteer for the service.

Even in communities with willing volunteers, many must work out of town and aren’t available for calls during the work hours.

Peterson’s ambulance service has nine emergency medical technicians and two first responders, while working as a 24-hour service with two 12-hour shifts. Only two of Peterson’s EMTs work in Peterson during the day. Those two volunteers must cover every 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. shift Monday through Friday.

“It is an ongoing problem,” said Stouffer, who has been with the Fostoria department for 35 years. “These smaller towns just don’t have the population to get willing volunteers from.”

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Information from: Spencer Daily Reporter, http://www.spencerdailyreporter.com