The Goode Volunteer Rescue Squad has closed down operations in Bedford County after serving locally since 1995. The primary factor leading to the squad’s closure was inadequate staffing, said Bill Bowen, chair of the rescue squad’s board of directors, which made the decision to close last year.
The former squad of about eight volunteers was only able to answer 40 to 50 calls per year, Bowen said, and had responded to no calls in its last year of operation. Most calls were answered by the county’s service instead.
Finding new volunteers was increasingly challenging for the agency in its final days.
“Volunteerism is down,” Bowen said.
The former Goode squad’s volunteers have applied to join Bedford County Fire and Rescue’s volunteer program, Bowen said.
“They want to give back to their community,” Bowen said of the former Goode volunteers.
Janet Blankenship, deputy chief of Bedford County Fire and Rescue, said the county received applications for the county volunteer service from the former Goode rescue squad volunteers.
“We’re going to give them that avenue, because we do see the need for volunteers in our system,” she said. “We have to work as a team. We want to ensure our citizens get help when they need it.”
The Bedford County Fire and Rescue department has both paid staff and volunteers, with nine independent volunteer agencies throughout the county that share calls, Blankenship said. Calls to any of the nine independent volunteer agencies come through the county dispatch system, Blankenship said. Responders are dispatched based on availability and need.
Volunteers with the county are required to commit a minimum of 24 hours of service per month, Blankenship said. Before being accepted to the volunteer program, applicants undergo a background check and interviews with the county department administrators and have up to three months to complete a checklist for training.
Paramedics have to renew their certification every three years in Virginia. If nationally certified, they must renew certification every two years, Blankenship said. An EMT in Virginia must renew certification every four years. The commitment to continuing education and volunteer time, Blankenship said, is one major factor for a decrease of EMS volunteerism.
The Moneta area gets the most calls in Bedford County, Blankenship said, partly due to Smith Mountain Lake being in that locality, where lake activities and a seasonal influx of vacationers may lead to higher service demand. Service demands elsewhere fluctuate, she said.
The Goode Volunteer Rescue Squad and Bedford County are working together to determine what to do with Goode Volunteer Rescue Squad’s two ambulances, EMS equipment, and a pickup truck and car, Bowen and Blankenship said. A final arrangement is yet “to be determined,” Bowen said Wednesday.
The rescue squad, a nonprofit, had just over $400,000 in net assets at the end of December 2018, according to tax documents filed with the IRS.
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