FEMA ambulances and crews help Wake County EMS with record call volumes

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Staff shortages and record call volumes are stretching Wake County EMS crews thin, but FEMA ambulances are now helping to temporarily run more calls.

Brian Brooks, with Wake County EMS, said the pandemic has led to fewer EMT graduates. Wake County EMS is currently short 34 people.

“Students did not graduate on time so applicants aren’t coming into the door,” Brooks said. “We are out actively trying to get people to choose this as a profession.”

But this shortage comes as Wake County EMS is responding to record call volumes — spiking around 11,100 calls in August alone.

Brooks said he doesn’t know if those numbers will go back down.

“There’s no way for us to predict that, we have to prepare for it to not go back to pre-COVID levels,” Brooks said.

That’s why the department is getting help from four FEMA ambulance teams, including eight people, in the short-term.

“If it was one call that they ran in a day, that’s one call that our unit didn’t have to run,” Brooks said. “Yes, anything that they do helps.”

But they’ve already been busy. Friday, the four new units responded to 33 calls.

FEMA paramedics and EMTs are traveling the country to counties in need.

“Speaking with one of them the other day he was from Tampa, Florida and they have been out on the roads for eight months,” Brooks said.

Wake County EMS currently has three of their ambulances stationed at the North Carolina State Fair, so the extra teams from FEMA are running the calls those other units would normally respond to.

But to try and fix long-term staffing needs, Brooks says the department is working with community colleges and high schools to get more people trained before graduation.

“That makes it easy for us because we can hire them at that point and then train them to work for Wake County,” Brooks said.

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