One of the Joint Legislative Council study committees that convened last summer was charged with looking at how fire protection and emergency medical services are provided around the state. The committee also worked to identify the issues surrounding the shortage of volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians, especially in rural areas. They were asked to come up with ideas to meet the needs of full time and volunteer fire departments, including proposals designed to increase the recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters throughout the state.
The committee heard from volunteer firefighters, professional firefighters and emergency services providers. The firefighters identified a few key issues that they believe is contributing to the shortage in their field. They explained that volunteer firefighters often have to travel long distances and have to miss time at work. Training requirements for firefighters and emergency technicians were also identified as a barrier to recruitment. While the Wisconsin Technical College System offers courses for firefighter certification and EMTs, the courses are not always offered at times that work for people with a full-time job and do not include the hands-on, department-specific training that firefighters said they need. These emergency services providers also explained that the state’s staffing requirements, meaning the number of EMTs with varying degrees of training, makes it difficult to provide services, especially in rural areas.
The committee developed a number of bills and sent two letters to the WTCS and the Department of Health Services. The proposed bills would:
1. Create an additional endorsement and training for EMTs to allow them to administer intravenous medications and fluids. This additional endorsement is aimed primarily at EMT-basic credential holders, as the other levels of licensure already include this skill.
2. Require certified first responders, EMTs, and paramedics to renew their licenses every four years rather than the current requirement of every two years.