Pittsylvania County is served by a network of 21 volunteer fire departments and 12 volunteer rescue squads. Each of these agencies are run from top-to-bottom primarily by dedicated volunteers, who are responsible for everything from fundraising to keeping equipment maintained to actually responding to calls. Whether it be for a medical emergency, a brush or house fire, or any other emergency, volunteers from various agencies are dispatched to respond to every 911 call.
Over the past several years, the number of 911 calls for emergency medical services has grown exponentially. For instance, the number of EMS calls per month in FY 2021 has increased by 100 just since the previous fiscal year.
At the same time, the number of trained volunteers with availability to respond to calls has declined. This decrease in available, trained volunteers can largely be attributed to increased, more rigid training requirements along with people having less time due to work and family requirements. The cost of equipment and operations has also grown significantly, meaning that these agencies have to put more time into raising money to keep the equipment running.
Despite the intense strain that all of these challenges have put on the volunteer system, agencies across Pittsylvania County have risen to the challenge with creative approaches to recruiting and training and collaboration with neighboring agencies, Pittsylvania County Public Safety, and the Pittsylvania County Fire and Rescue Commission. In fact, the response rate – or the percentage of calls that the volunteer agencies were able to respond to – has actually increased in that same five year period, with many agencies improving their individual response rate.
In the next several months, we will be highlighting individual agencies to show the challenges they have faced - and how they are overcoming them. Stay tuned for #pittcoagencies and don't forget to tune in every week for #pittcovolunteers.