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Senator Tom Brewer
You’re driving down Highway 2 in Western Nebraska. Suddenly you find yourself seriously injured in a traffic accident. It’s 70 miles to the nearest town. It’s a Wednesday at 2:00pm in the middle of the workweek. You dial 911. How long will it be before emergency medical personnel arrive to help you?
In rural Nebraska, you could be in for a long wait. If Emergency Medical Service (EMS) crews are already on a call responding somewhere else, who knows how long it will be.
I am part of an “interim study” about the serious challenges that face our volunteer fire departments and volunteer EMS crews. I am so glad Sen. Bruce Bostelman introduced this idea. This work will very likely produce a bill in the coming session that I will happily co-sponsor.
With the exception of the major cities in Nebraska who have full-time “paid” first responders (Fire and EMS), most of this critically important service in Nebraska is provided by volunteers. Finding Nebraskans willing to give of themselves and serve their community in these vitally important roles is becoming harder and harder to do. We’re exploring ideas to try and reduce this burden.
The requirements to be a “volunteer” fireman or EMS first-responder have steadily increased over the years. The number of “hours” of classroom and hands-on training required to get a certification in the first place, and then the continuing education to keep an “Emergency Medical Technician” or “Fireman” certification have steadily grown. The body of State and Federal laws that apply to this have also grown. Should a State standard be adopted, or should we follow the standards required for the Federal Registry? Should volunteers be given some assistance, perhaps through the tax code, with the costs associated with their training and testing? Why is volunteer fire departments and EMS a topic which falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Health and Human Services? Is some other State agency better suited to perform this role? Is the money from the sale of a specialized Fire or EMS license plates something that should go to the Department of Roads, or should it go to the volunteer fire and EMS departments in the counties? Could the medical units and personnel in our National Guard be utilized to help augment and cover-down on the gaps in EMS coverage? These and many other subjects are being carefully considered by this interim study. I look forward to seeing what comes out of this.
Vacancies in county fire and EMS crews exist all over rural Nebraska, and this directly effects response times. It’s hard for me to fathom the idea rural Nebraskans may not have access to the same emergency medical response that is taken for granted in Lincoln and Omaha. We need to do all we can to empower these incredible Nebraskans who give of themselves to support their community and provide this vital service. The vast majority of the State of Nebraska depends on these volunteers. When need to make the incredible gift of someone’s time and devotion to this important work something that is easier for people to do. We need to get the vacancies filled, reform the bureaucracy that’s getting in the way, and help incentivize a person’s desire to volunteer.
Please contact my office with any comments, questions or concerns. Email me at; firstname.lastname@example.org. Mail a letter to; Sen. Tom Brewer, Room #1202, P.O. Box 94604, Lincoln, NE 68509 or call us at (402) 471-2628.