Stipend program for volunteer first responders to move forward

The Riley County Commission on Monday supported moving forward with a first responder stipend program that would pay volunteer firefighters to provide improved basic life support coverage to the northern area of the county beginning in September.

The three commissioners said they would draft a motion and vote on the issue at a future meeting.

The program would provide all volunteer fire personnel with a stipend for each call they respond to. The county would pay $15 for a firefighter, $20 to a fire officer and $25 to basic life support providers and first responders. Paid fire staff members would not receive stipends.

With this program, Emergency Management Director Pat Collins said he believed it would help retain or attract volunteers, which the district has historically had struggles with.

Collins wrote in a report to the commission that some workers experience burnout, are busy with day jobs or move away for better pay or a full-time job. He wrote it is also time consuming and costly for first responders to maintain proper certifications and use their own vehicles to respond to calls, which they currently pay out-of-pocket.

Riley County Fire District 1 has an agreement with county EMS to help provide basic first response to emergency medical calls. In 2018, the district had 557 total calls for first responder services including 261 “unanswered” medical calls across the county, a record high.

It is the district’s policy to continue paging people until they have enough to mitigate emergencies, but Collins said they did not have available personnel to respond to those calls.

Collins said EMS and ambulance services eventually did respond, but with a delayed response time.

The average initial response time to medical calls in the northern area is more than 15 minutes. Collins wrote that the money will help reduce response time for medical calls to 10-15 minutes.

Commissioners tabled discussion on hiring one or more full-time employees with EMT and Kansas firefighter certifications who would help respond during the day when most volunteers are unavailable.


Posted by Gwen Dorr Romine, KSFFA Webmaster
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