Franklin County pushes for more first responder volunteers

Public safety officials describe response times


FRANKLIN COUNTY, Va. – Franklin County needs more volunteer firefighters and EMS workers.

Every district took part in an open house Saturday and Franklin County Public Safety Director Billy Ferguson said his department received more than 10 applications. Through events and social media posts, the county hopes to attract many more volunteers to solve a shortage that departments around the nation are facing.

Ferguson said they need people ready to go if the first groups to respond are on another call.

“We're working our folks a little harder than we should. We still have fairly good response times,” he said.

He said they're hitting their target response time on average -- eight to nine minutes -- but that means some people have a longer wait.

“We still do a pretty good job of getting there in the optimal time but when you're having the emergency, minutes seem like hours,” he said.

He said there haven't been any extreme circumstances of a long response time and more volunteers will help avoid one of those worst-case scenarios.

“So we don't have to answer to a family when it took us 25 minutes to get there or 30 minutes to get there. We don't want that to happen,” he said.

He said younger people can use the volunteer time on college applications or for later applications for career firefighter jobs. Plus, crews can use help with many non-emergency tasks, like mowing the grass or cleaning vehicles.

"It's very important that we have volunteers, whether they give an hour a week, two hours a week, that's more than nothing,” volunteer Jonathan Lovelace said.

"It's really important. In a small town like this, volunteers are hard to come by,” volunteer Matthew Overfelt said.

Some people in the community think tax dollars should go to paying more than the 50 current paid positions.

"If the people are not there it can't be helped. No, I do not like having longer response times," Rocky Mount resident Mary Brammer said.

Franklin County Fire and EMS has about 200 volunteers. It had around 400 volunteers in 1990 when crews were responding to around 900 calls per year, which is fewer than 10 percent of the more than 12,000 calls per year the stations get now.

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