By Ian Nelson
Morgan County Emergency Services Director
In speaking with members of the community over my two years as the Emergency Services Director for Morgan County, I have noticed that many in the community are not aware of how the Fire and EMS Department is organized or how it is operated. I was approached by The Morgan County News and asked if I would like the opportunity to share with the community exactly how we operate.
The Morgan County Fire & Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department is a volunteer organization. What this means is that all the firefighters and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) are volunteers. Our neighbors in the Mountain Green Fire District are also volunteers. The fire stations are not staffed, so all the volunteers carry pagers. When 911 is called, the firefighters and EMTs respond to the station to get either the fire engine or ambulance and then respond to the call for help. In 2017 we responded to just over 500 calls in the county.
So, who are these firefighters and EMTs? They could be your friends, neighbors, family members, or they might be a stranger. What they all have in common is that they are members of your community who volunteer. When an alarm comes in, these volunteers drop what they are doing and respond to those in need. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a volunteer as “a person who voluntarily undertakes or expresses a willingness to undertake a service,” and this truly is service.
It is not as easy to be a volunteer firefighter or EMT as it might be to volunteer in other areas of the community. Volunteers are needed everywhere and in every community, but firefighter and EMS takes special training. I’ll explain what I mean.
To volunteer as an EMT, you must be state certified. There are various levels of certification in EMS. At a minimum to work on an ambulance you must be an EMT-Basic. Becoming an EMT-Basic requires 120 hours of training and can cost around $800.
In Morgan County we provide an Advanced-EMT service. To become an Advanced-EMT requires an additional 120 hours of training and around another $900. Morgan County currently does not have paramedics, as this training is 1,200 hours or more and costs around $6,000. Each of these levels must now pass a written and skills test with the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians. This is not an easy test, as there is a nationwide 75 percent fail rate on the first attempt.
The EMTs are also all required by the state to be certified in Advanced Cardiac Life Support, Pediatric Advanced Life Support, and CPR through the American Heart Association. These are required to be recertified every two years. Each of these courses is 16 hours long.
In addition to this initial training, all EMTs are required to attended 108 hours of continuing medical education (CME) each year to maintain their certification and of course, there are also state recertification fees in excess of $100.
The majority of the EMTs in Morgan are at the Advanced level. The ambulance operates on a three-shift schedule. The shifts are day, night, and weekend.
Day is Monday-Friday 6 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Night is Sunday-Thursday 6 p.m. – 6 a.m.
Weekend is Friday 6 p.m. – Sunday 6 p.m.
During those times, there are four people scheduled. There is at least one Advanced-EMT scheduled at all times, two other EMTs, and what we call the stand-by person. The three EMTs respond to the call and the stand-by person calls all of the other EMTs and puts together a second crew just in case a second call comes in. This will repeat if a third call comes in and another crew is needed. There are several times a year where all three of our ambulances are called out at the same time.
The EMTs are paid a small amount. The three EMTs on-call get $1.50/hour to be on-call, and if they respond to a call, they are paid $12-16/hour depending on certification level. As you can see, it is not a large amount and the EMTs typically spend this on uniforms and training.
The firefighters also carry pagers, but they are not scheduled and so do not receive the $1.50/hour on-call pay. However, they do receive the $12-16/hour while on a call. Whenever a fire call comes in, whoever is available to respond does so. Sometimes that is one firefighter.
The firefighters are also required to be state certified. In order to volunteer as a firefighter, you must have Fire I, Fire II, Hazmat Awareness, Hazmat Operations and, in Morgan County, they must also get certified as a Wildland Firefighter.
All together this training is approximately 272 hours of classroom and skills. Each firefighter must also pass a state written and skills examination. In addition to the initial training, firefighters are required to have 36 hours of continued fire education (CFE) each year, a wildland firefighting refresher course, and a wildland physical fitness test each year. In total the fire training from the state costs $2,500 at a minimum.
We are always looking for volunteers and welcome anyone. We have worked with the Utah Fire & Rescue Academy and will be holding a Wildland firefighter course in February at no cost. In May we will be holding a fire academy. Graduates of that academy will finish with Fire I & II and Hazmat Awareness & Operations. This will be delivered only at the cost of books if those taking the course are Morgan County or Mountain Green Fire volunteers.
We also recently finished an in-house EMT course. Because it was in house and the instructors donated their time, we were able to deliver the course for cost of books and testing fees.
You do not need to be certified to begin volunteering. Please see the information below and come and visit us!
The Morgan County Fire Department Station 121 is looking for residents interested in working as structural and wildland fire fighters as well as emergency medical technicians (EMTs).
Any person 18 years or older, of good moral character, in good health and meeting statutory requirements may apply for active membership within the Morgan Fire and EMS department. Active members must reside within the boundaries of Morgan County, or as approved by the fire chief. Training will be provided and classes start in February.
To apply, contact Ian Nelson at (801) 845-4048 or firstname.lastname@example.org.